Discover the Difference: Separated by Circumstances, Connected by Community
by Diocese of Des Moines | October 1, 2020
In August the Diocese of Des Moines released a comprehensive plan to re-open its 16 schools. With guidance from the Iowa Department of Education and in collaboration with local public health experts, a decision was made to offer families the option of either five-day-a-week in-person instruction or a fully-remote learning option.
"Providing our families with options regarding their child's education was the right thing to do in response to the COVID-19 pandemic," noted Donna Bishop, Superintendent of Schools. “In some cases, the presence of an underlying health condition necessitates online instruction in order to keep students and their loved ones as safe as possible. Accordingly, our schools are prepared to partner with any family that would like to explore the remote learning option.”
Families at all Diocese of Des Moines Catholic schools have the ability to select the learning option that best meets the needs of their family. Families are able to re-evaluate and change their decision at each trimester should their individual circumstances change. Currently, seven percent of students (451) enrolled at Diocese of Des Moines Catholic schools have opted to use the remote learning option.
Remote learning for these students is facilitated through Learning Management Systems including Google Classroom and Seesaw. These platforms allow teachers to provide lessons and assignments directly to students, while also allowing students to submit work and receive feedback in real time. As a result, this seamless two-way communication provided to remote learners yielded positive outcomes and high engagement rates among students this past spring. The summer break enabled school leaders to further refine the remote learning system and schools anticipate even stronger student engagement and outcomes from distance learning this school year.
Bishop added, "We want to ensure student learning continues. Schools are working with families to meet their individual needs. No student will miss out on a high-quality education because of this virus.”
While remote learning provides an opportunity for a high-quality academic experience and learning continuity, it also comes with challenges. Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of a Catholic education is the sense of connectedness our students experience as members a faith community. Although we may be separated by circumstances, it is critical we remain connected through our school communities. To navigate this unique challenge presented by remote learning, diocesan schools have ensured that all students, whether in-person or remote, have the opportunity to be a part of their classroom community through activities such as in class prayer, morning meetings, individual student check-ins, school Masses, and small-group learning experiences.
"Our parents appreciate the fact that we offer live instruction and involve our virtual students in small group activities and discussions," said Jennifer Simmons, St. Malachy principal. "We try to make them feel like they are still here in the building with us."
"Providing families the option of in-person learning and distance learning has been crucial to our success," noted Daniel Thole, Christ the King principal. "We look forward to the day we can bring all of our students back together into the classroom, but until then, we will continue to make sure all students, whether they are in-person or at home, continue to receive the unique exceptional academic and spiritual development each day."
The Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Schools includes 16 schools in 23 counties in central and southwest Iowa. Catholic schools in the Des Moines Diocese build Christ-centered, collaborative, inclusive partnerships with parents, students, and parishes to provide innovative academic excellence and inspirational faith formation for students.
To learn more visit www.dmdiocese.org/schools and discover the Catholic school difference!