A Lesson in Hope
Dropping enrollment, combined with the uncertainty of a pandemic, does not bring to mind fortitude, perseverance, and determination. But that is exactly what sprung forth at our school, and Catholic Schools across the diocese and country, when faced with the challenge of remote learning. Together, our staff was determined to do everything possible to open our school for in-person learning while simultaneously reaching and teaching those who needed to stay home. St. Nicholas School was able to safely bring students on campus last October and continue serving students remaining at home. Today, the CDPH, CDC, and AAP all agree that in-person learning must be prioritized.
What is it exactly that enabled Catholic schools to not only face the challenge and succeed in this new environment? The value of a Catholic education has within it the ingredients of Faith, Hope, and Love. And I believe it is the hope of our students, our teachers, our parents, and our parish community that fueled our success. Creative efforts and tireless dedication allowed our educators to pivot to new forms of delivering curriculum and making connections with students and families.
The USCCB Committee on Catholic Education has identified five themes of hope that can continue to guide the work and witness of our Catholic schools: prayer, partnership with families, personalization, persistence, and planning. Educating the whole person remains the focus of Catholic education and the crucially important tenet in serving both our faith community and society.
All the faculty in our Diocese prepared for this coming year by meeting to explore best practices and discuss the mission and purpose of our work. It is valuable time to collaborate with other teachers, administrations, and specialists from other schools. We continue to take a multi-pronged, layered approach to protect students, teachers, and staff, including vaccination, universal mask use, ventilation, testing, quarantining, cleaning, and disinfecting. Combining these layers of protection makes our in-person learning safe and possible. We abide by all the protocols and mandates which are applied to all schools in California. Schools, places of worship, and businesses have different rules because we are with children for longer periods of time. Our teachers are participating in many professional learning opportunities. It is always a great time to work on elevating our profession with effective best practices and research-based instructional strategies. We are also spending a great deal of time building our social and emotional programs, which continue to be a priority in every class during our school day.
When the summer began, each child entering 4th Grade through 8th Grade received a hardbound copy of “The Elephant In The Room” by Holly Goldberg Sloan. It was a gift from the school for the students to read and enjoy. It is a heartfelt story that illustrates the importance of compassion, tolerance and bravery, themes we will explore in this new school year. All but a few students returned to in-person learning when we began on August 18th. School protocols and guidelines based on the CDC and CDPH and the San José Diocese have been implemented. We were so excited to welcome back all our returning families and unite them with our 52 new families. The pandemic has been a lesson in Hope. We’ve learned to treasure the moments and hope in the future. With perhaps our highest enrollment ever, we are so excited for the future and ask you to support Catholic education through prayer as we begin this new year. We are the proud school of the St. Nicholas and St. William Catholic Parish.
Reflection by Jan Popolizio , Principal St. Nicholas School