April 10, 2 020
Dear Parents:

First and foremost, I want to wish a Happy Easter to you and your family.  Despite all the uncertainty that surrounds us currently, there is one thing that we can all agree on and that is with the death and Resurrection of the Risen Christ, he has given us all a gift that is everlasting.

On behalf of the entire faculty, I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate these uncharted waters presented to us.  I know we all share similar concerns with our new way of living and learning. The difficulty, as we have all experienced it, is that American education has been turned upside down during this unprecedented situation.  To plan for a few snow days is one thing, but to invent an entire curriculum delivery system overnight is quite different.   In fact, all schools, public and private, are struggling with this same situation. I am in discussions with many of the private schools in Atlanta, and with my Gwinnett background, in contact with many of those principals as well.  We are all trying to find the "right formula." Even the schools that have made direct teacher contact mandatory are not happy and are struggling for quality instructional time. We will never be able to have the same level of instruction as face-to-face in the classroom, but we are trying to deliver the essential content material of our courses in the second semester of the year.

Current considerations
We have been conducting daily on-line meetings with the department chairs and weekly on-line meetings with the entire faculty to discuss changes that have been suggested and/or seek a "best practices" scenario.  Our teachers have been working exceptionally hard to deliver the essential content material of our courses, not paralyze a student with work they cannot do by themselves. This is the reason we went to a block type schedule to afford the students the opportunity to talk to their teachers.  That said, as a result of a recent faculty meeting, and after much on-going discussion, we have mandated a few changes to our current process.

The first change flips Social Studies and P.E./Health with the hope that it will eliminate the burden of having so many "core" classes in one day.  Social Studies will move to the Tuesday/Thursday 1:15-3:00 time slot and P.E./Health moves to the 1:15-3:00 time spot on Monday/Wednesday.

The second change is that we have asked teachers to meet online at least once or twice a week with their classes to respond to any questions they might have.  This face-to-face time could include but is not limited to, recorded instructional video, office hours, open classes, or even shorter synchronous classes. According to our login data, most of our students have responded well to this block format but not everyone is using the time to correspond and interact with their teachers and that concerns us when parents are indicating that they want to see their students interacting more with their teachers.  Please encourage your students to log in for office hours to ask questions or to otherwise constructively and productively interact with them. Additionally, teachers are available via email if students have questions outside of the office hours or open classes. Basically, the teachers are there to work with your students.

The third expectation is that teachers have information posted on PowerSchool Learning (PSL).  Typical of our teachers, when PSL was experiencing difficulty at the beginning of the distance learning they found their own ways to communicate with their students.  PSL is now in better shape and we have instructed the teachers to have their calendar details posted according to our standard expectations prior to the distance learning implementation.

A plan for the rest of the year
We know that plans can change by the minute, but the plan right now due to the social-distancing regulations is that we will continue to use distance learning to close out this year.  We are still waiting on the Office of Catholic Schools to inform us as to when the last days of school will be and as soon as that decision is made we will share that information.

One thing we know all of you are concerned about is final exams.  Due to such a dramatic change in education, we have made the decision to eliminate final exams for grades 9-12.  We did not think it would be fair to the students to have a final exam worth 20% of their grades. Our computer grading platform will eliminate that requirement from the final grades.  Even though cumulative final exams have been eliminated, students can count on normal assessments throughout the remainder of the semester. Final class grades will be determined by normal assessments given with chapter or unit tests and any other criteria the teacher has in the syllabi.

Obviously, with the social guidelines, we have had to eliminate many of the end of the year events.  For the seniors, we are considering several plans for Baccalaureate, awarding academic honors, and Graduation.  For the undergraduates, we will move their portion of the Honors Assembly to the fall. These important milestones in their lives absolutely deserve recognition and we are going to figure out what we can do to mark it accordingly given the current restrictions on social events.

There is much planning ahead, but know that we appreciate your support and will keep you informed as any information becomes available.  We sincerely appreciate our partnership with you as we work to educate our young people during these exceptional times.    

With much gratitude,
Steve Spellman 
St. Pius X Catholic High School
2674 Johnson Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30345