~by J.D. Long-Garcia, America Magazine
In New York City, often referred to as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., Catholic schools closed on March 13. Jessica Maldonado, Principal of St. Thomas Aquinas School in the Bronx, started preparing for on-line learning well before the closure. They checked in with families, asking about internet access, technology and work schedules. Initially, teachers prepared packets for two weeks, hoping it would be over by then.
About 85 percent of students at St. Thomas are Latino, and others are African or African American, Ms. Maldonado said. Most of the staff speaks Spanish and the families from Africa speak English, so language has not been an issue.
“Most of the time, it’s the kids helping the parents [with the technology],” Ms. Maldonado said, adding that some of the students who had been less engaged before are now participating more often. “They have been super excited to log on to Zoom every morning.”
day at 10 a.m. Ms. Maldonado leads prayer on Zoom for the entire school – including 188 students and 25 staff members. Students, who wear their school polo shirts, take turns doing the readings and responsorial psalm. Teachers take attendance, and if a student is not logged in to the call, parents get a phone call.
“But the children have been amazing. They have a good, positive attitude about all of this. They’re having fun and loving it because it is new,” said Ms. Maldonado.
Many of the parents work in healthcare and some have contracted COVID-19 and have had to send their children to stay with other families while they quarantine themselves. In those cases, teachers work with aunts and uncles or grandparents to explain the online learning process.
Unfortunately, more than half of the school’s parents have been laid off during the pandemic. They have had a hard time keeping up with tuition, but the Archdiocese of New York has come through with funding to help make up the difference so far, Ms. Maldonado said.
Michael J. Deegan, Superintendent of the NY Archdiocesan Schools, said, “We don’t want to lose anyone. No one could have prepared for the coronavirus pandemic, but we have the infrastructure and the support to make it through.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan has been sending out recorded messages for Catholic school students. For example, the Cardinal told students in a YouTube message that “we miss you in the schools and in
church, because the buildings are closed. But Jesus is never closed and he is always with us…especially in tough times.” To read the entire article click here