On Thursday, March 12, 2020, Moreau Catholic became the first high school in the Oakland Diocese to voluntarily close the campus and immediately implement distance learning as a precautionary measure to the COVID-19 pandemic. While other schools in the area soon followed, many were not able to implement distance learning as quickly or efficiently as MCHS. Some have only just begun distance learning, nearly three weeks after the shelter-in-place order from Gov. Gavin Newson on March 19, 2020.
Moreau Catholic High School always strives for outstanding achievement and academic excellence. During this time of shelter-in-place, school is still in session – just in a different space. We expect the same level of academic rigor and consistent hard work that our Mariners have shown in the classroom while they work from home. In order to maintain that consistency and rigor, the faculty and administration moved quickly in early March to have a plan in place in the event of a school closure.
DISTANCE LEARNING AT MCHS
Distance learning is going extraordinarily well, and faculty and administration continue to refine our program as we gain more experience. After four weeks of “regular” classes and an extensive student survey, we have already made informed adjustments to better serve our students and to scale emerging best practices, focusing on:
- essentializing curriculum
- clarifying learning objectives on Canvas and making the instructional road map clearer for students
- using the most effective and student-favored online teaching strategies (for example, we know that our students like using zoom, viewing teacher-made videos, and engaging in digital conferencing with teachers, as well as having time to practice skills during class)
- utilizing a balanced variety of alternative assessments
- reducing screen time and ensure a manageable workload
- increasing flexibility with due dates for assignments
Moreau is leveraging all of our educational technology as well as our strong relationships with students to stay true to our mission and support the cultivation of the minds and hearts of our young people. We are acknowledging the anxiety and uncertainty that this pandemic is creating, and we are actively working to maintain structure, normalcy, connection, and community with our students. We are bringing each other hope during this time.
Parents, students, and community members have praised the Moreau faculty and administration for these efforts. Dean Barnes ’92, MCHS alumnus and father of a current Mariner as well as a 7th grader in Dublin, wrote to Dr. Guneratne to say, “Moreau’s handling of the situation and preparation to move to distance learning is impressive…without a doubt, Moreau has got it together. Thank you for that! Looking forward to the day when my daughter can get…into Moreau.”
Undoubtedly, this is a challenging time for teachers and students everywhere, but the Moreau Catholic family has risen to the challenge. Faculty have praised the students for their adaptability throughout this hardship, and students in return have felt loved and supported. Long time faculty member Christine Krisman shared, “I am closer to some of my students due to communicating via email than I ever expected. I have a student in my team sports class, a sophomore boy, who may have said 3-4 words to me so far this semester. Through email, he expresses himself, told me how much he enjoys my ‘enthusiasm’ for the class, and today, I got this email from him: ‘First off I miss you a lot. But I was wondering if I might be writing too much or giving too much detail in my answers?’ I did not expect this, but wow-my heart was full!”
Other teachers have also shared highlights of this experience:
- Mr. Sinnott, English: “For many students, distance learning has opened up an opportunity to fearlessly express themselves, and ultimately a better opportunity for me to hear their thoughts and insights. “
- Mr. Dragoni, Social Studies: “I am amazed at how distance learning can be an avenue for students who may be shy in class to really engage in ways that are comfortable for them by utilizing the many different electronic academic tools we have at our disposal.”
- Ms. Parker, Visual Art: “Students really do want to learn and are determined to show up as best they can in this new space.”
- Fr. Bruce, Theology (on using more educational technology): “It’s not always perfect, requires some patience and perseverance – but we are making it work. We’re all in this together!”
- Mr. Prisk, English: “I have been nothing but impressed by the earnestness with which so many Moreau students seem to be working to claim their education in this moment of hardship and to make the distance model we’ve implemented effective instructional time for them. It’s very clear to me that Mariners absolutely want to be partners in creating instructional experiences that work for them, offering themselves to that challenge with humility, honesty, and respect…I have also been reminded how much students’ educational success depends on fostering their emotional health, staying mindfully connected to their needs and realities.”
We are proud of the way our Mariners are handling this unprecedented situation. As a Mariner family, we understand that these adjustments, though moderately inconvenient, are necessary for the health and safety of our community. We pray everyday for those on the front lines of this pandemic, and we continue to work hard with the hope that in doing so we are doing our part to flatten the curve.