“We’re in This Together”
St. Paul Lutheran School provides a biblically integrated, academically excellent education for students. St. Paul Lutheran School partners with families to equip children to boldly reflect the character of Jesus Christ.
- St. Paul Lutheran School mission statement
These are strange times for schools, for students, and for parents. Our children are home for the foreseeable future, we are home for the foreseeable future, and we are trying to adjust to our new normal.
Earlier this week, I talked with Katherine Curtis, the Community Relations Director of St. Paul Lutheran School, to find out what St. Paul is doing in response to the coronavirus epidemic. Not only is Katherine on the staff of St. Paul, she is a St. Paul parent, so she gets to see the effect of the school’s remote learning efforts from both sides.
“Part of St. Paul’s mission is to partner with parents, and they have really done that!”
When the coronavirus pandemic started, St. Paul students were on spring break. However, as the implications of the pandemic grew, the school started communicating with parents, even during spring break. “Speaking as a mom, one of the coolest things that St. Paul has done is that each teacher called their students’ parents. They didn’t say, ‘Here’s the game plan, here’s what you have to do.’ They said, ‘How are you? How was spring break? What can we do to help you? Can I pray for you?’”
St. Paul teachers talked with their students, too. When everything is so up in the air, children can get scared. Just hearing a teacher’s voice can be a reassurance, a bit of normalcy. “Just that simple communication made all the difference,” Katherine said.
This week, St. Paul started their remote learning program, and this is where a small school with a strong sense of community really shines. Right now, each student gets two emails a week – one with Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday’s lessons, and one with Thursday and Friday’s lessons. When the remote learning plan was released to the parents, Principal Scott Browning emailed everyone with directions, but he included another message. According to Katherine, “He said that everyone’s home life is different so do what you can… we’re here for you, we want to keep your child’s learning moving forward, but we also understand that this is a trying time for us all, so there’s no pressure.”
As the week has progressed, more teachers are turning to online meeting software, such as Zoom, to have classroom time. “The teachers are building each other up,” Katherine said. “Some are more tech-savvy than others, and they’re helping those who aren’t quite as fast with technology.”
St. Paul has loaned out all the school’s iPads to students without access to a computer. The school counselor has started what is essentially telemedicine – Mrs. Merritt is available for the students AND the parents. On Thursdays, she will host Coffee with the Counselor via Zoom. Art class, music lesson, and upper grade science classes are all up and running online. “From the parent perspective,” said Katherine, “I’m blown away.”
The community of St. Paul isn’t only making sure that students learn. St. Paul parents have banded together to support each other in these strange times and help their children who are missing their friends. “The parents have text message chains, Facebook group chats, and everyone is checking in with each other. Parents are checking in on teachers. Parents are starting Zoom hangouts for their kids to talk with their friends. Everyone has come together to see what they can do to make sure we all make it through.”
St. Paul Lutheran School is a mission of St. Paul Lutheran Church, and the church members have been helping the school maneuver through this difficult time, giving spiritual and physical support. Monday morning all-school Devotional is now online for students, as is Wednesday morning Chapel. These are just more familiar things to help the community stay grounded.
Because this pandemic and the response to it is unprecedented in our lifetime, the school is taking the closure a week at a time.
“The transparency has been great. We freely admit that we don’t know how things are going to play out. We acknowledge that there will be hiccups, but we will keep moving forward. From the principal to the office to each teacher, everyone is available. In every email, Principal Browning includes his direct phone number. Not the school office number – his phone number. Every single member of the faculty and staff is available for students and parents.”
If you are looking for a new school for your student, Katherine has this to say. “While we can’t give tours, we can talk to you and answer your questions. And we’re accepting applications for next year. Sarah Daniel is the Admissions Director, and she can be reached at Sarah.Daniel@sharingnewlife.com.”
Mr. Rogers famously said, ““When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Katherine said that is what the faculty and staff of St. Paul Lutheran School are doing. They are helping students, parents, and each other.
“Students are learning. Teachers are learning. Parents are learning. We’re in this together.”