How Baltimore Catholic Schools Lead the Way
When the decision was made to close schools statewide on March 12, 2020, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore quickly and seamlessly transitioned to distance learning. Remote instruction was implemented for all students across the archdiocese on March 16.
Due to the commitment and planning performed by the dedicated educators and administrators in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Catholic school students did not miss a day of instruction and continued to remain academically engaged and challenged throughout the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
A BEHIND-THE-SCENES TASK FORCE
Before the 2019-20 school year concluded, a “Planning Ahead Task Force for Catholic Schools,” made up of healthcare professionals, counselors, educators, school leaders, parents and experts in various applicable fields, was established to develop a comprehensive plan to ensure the safe return of Catholic school students and staff to in-person instruction for the start of the 2020-21 school year.
The recommendations outlined in the plan were designed to maximize in-person instruction while adhering to all recommended safety practices, including social distancing and the wearing of facial coverings. This plan also provided guidance and support to all archdiocesan Catholic schools to aid in the development of their individual plans for reopening.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore also implemented a virtual summer learning program for students in grades three through eight to help reduce summer learning loss and prepare students for the upcoming school year. The six-week program was open to current Catholic school students, incoming students new to Catholic school, as well as public school students and will be offered again in the summer of 2021. For more information on the 2021 Summer Learning Program or to register, visit https://www.archbalt.org/schools/academics/summer-learning-program/.
BACK IN CLASS
On Aug. 31, 2020, Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore welcomed students back to campus. Most school facilities were able to accommodate students for five-day, in-person instruction while safely social distancing. Due to their size, several schools incorporated a “blend” of in-person and remote learning that maximized in-person instruction. Families who did not feel comfortable returning their children to in-person instruction were given the option to participate remotely from home.
“The Catholic school administrators have provided energetic leadership and have found safe ways to continue as many regular activities and traditions that make Catholic schools special, while at the same time guiding teachers in this unusual year,” explains a parent from St. Ursula School, a preschool through 8th grade school in Baltimore County. “Catholic school educators have worked so hard to successfully teach to both in-school and virtual students synchronously. I am grateful to the Archdiocese of Baltimore for being a leader. We are truly blessed in so many ways.“
A significant investment in technology, infrastructure and professional development, as well as the adoption of a variety of risk mitigation methods, were key factors in the Catholic school system’s ability to offer all three modes of operation (in-person, hybrid and remote). The planning and preparation for both in-person and virtual learning over the summer gave Catholic schools the capability to react quickly and pivot between modes of instruction as needed throughout the year.
Now, well into the second half of the 2020-21 school year, Catholic school students continue to thrive. Catholic school educators have developed creative new ways of teaching to safely provide hands-on learning opportunities in class and at home. Students engage with their peers and enjoy taking part in the classroom activities and traditions.
“It is a blessing for the spirit to interact with children face-to-face, for students to run and play together at recess, and to appreciate the normalcy and the joy of the daily school routine,” says Casey Buckstaff, Principal of St. John the Evangelist School in Severna Park. “I feel an overwhelming gratitude to our amazing faculty for their creativity and tireless work; and to our dedicated families who through their own commitment to health and safety at home make it possible for our St. John family to be together safely here on campus.”
THE STRENGTH OF CATHOLIC SCHOOLS
Catholic schools continue to nurture the spiritual, social and emotional needs of all students. School counselors and classroom teachers work closely with all students to care for their emotional well-being, which is especially important during the pandemic.
“In a world where there is so much uncertainty, Catholic schools bring a daily sense of calm and predictability for students,” says a parent with a student at Our Lady of Grace Preschool in Baltimore County. “The Catholic school educators have persisted through the challenges, and have shown up every day to model their bravery, strength and flexibility in order to educate the children of our future.”
Catholic schools are now planning for the 2021-22 school year and are currently enrolling new students for the fall. The 2021-22 school year will include the opening of Mother Mary Lange Catholic School, a new, state-of-the art preschool through 8th grade school, located in the heart of Baltimore City.
For more information about Mother Mary Lange Catholic School, or to view the list of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore by jurisdiction, visit Archbalt.org/schools.
About Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic Schools
Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore serve students in preschool through 12th grade and provide a Christ-centered education that is academically excellent and empowers students to reach their full potential — spiritually, intellectually, physically, socially and morally. There are 63 Catholic schools located throughout nine jurisdictions in Maryland, including the city and county of Baltimore. For more information on Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, please visit Archbalt.org/schools.