I am happy to report that it has been awhile since our last task force update. The reason being is that we have been successfully navigating the school year with minimal incidences of COVID. Our community has worked together to follow through on our commitment to be Safe Together.
However, one aspect of our school community life has become very evident in the last few weeks. Our teachers and staff are bearing a heavy emotional burden being “first responders” for our children and families navigating the pandemic crisis. In a recent article in Education Week, the research suggests the additional weight of care taking has taken a heavy toll on our teachers. Like many caregiving professions in this crisis, teachers are cycling through grief and worry with no clear end in sight. And while they’re proud of all they’ve accomplished this past year, they worry about the emotional and academic impact on their students while feeling like they can never do enough to meet both needs. Teachers have had to create new ways to connect with students, create new teaching and assessment practices, find ways to meet students’ shifting academic needs, and work in altered physical learning environments while in crisis mode. One way to support teacher mental health and well-being is by normalizing self-care while also creating a sustainable balanced approach to our school year.
As we move into the 2nd quarter, we have made a few alterations to our calendar to provide an opportunity for a Wellness Break for our school staff and our school children. We will build in a 3-day weekend periodically in between the upcoming holiday breaks. This will allow an opportunity every two weeks for everyone to take a “PAUSE” and regroup. This time will allow our school staff to have time to prioritize self-care and take time to re-energize so that they can be their best selves to take care of our children. I know that this will be a burden for some families who may find it difficult to arrange child care, but I am hoping that it will help us to stay open for the long run if our teachers and staff are taking care of themselves. I am also hoping that this may provide time for children and families to also take the day as a Wellness Break for themselves. Take the day to perhaps attend daily Mass, take a walk, have a family game day, cook together, etc. (not a day to run errands and do housework ). Trauma-informed care practices teach us to find support and ways to take care of ourselves, and everyone has experienced trauma in some form during these past 8 months.
Please put the following dates on your calendar that school will be closed for Wellness Breaks.
- Friday, November 13th
- Friday, December 11th
- Friday, January 15th
In speaking on behalf of the staff, we appreciate your understanding and support of Wellness Breaks for the remainder of first semester. As we approach 2nd semester, I will let you know if we will have additional calendar updates.
Trauma Informed Care for Families
This topic is vital for all members of our school and parish community. We are committed not only to our physical well-being during the pandemic, but our emotional and spiritual health is equally as important. With this in mind, our Crucial Conversations series will be hosting an upcoming Zoom parenting workshop titled Surviving in Trying Times with Sarah Buffie, Founding Director and Trauma Responsive Care Trainer of Soul Bird Consulting. These workshops will take place early in the new year -- more info to come.
Thanksgiving - MLK Day
The next topic for today is also calendar centered. There has been “talk” about closing school from Thanksgiving to Martin Luther King Day to allow for families to better be able to travel and celebrate. Our team (school staff, SAC members, medical professionals) has been discussing and reflecting on this idea. At this time, we feel that it is not in the best interest of our school community to close for 9 weeks, unless we absolutely must due to illness and spread of the virus. This model is a college model, and most of this closure time would have been typical time off between semesters. We feel that this model is not conducive to the elementary school. As a parish and school, we acknowledge that the holidays this year will be drastically different, and families will be making tough choices about gatherings. Our parish has already sent out communication regarding Christmas Mass, and I hope that you have prayerfully begun considering your plans. We will also be offering additional support for how to celebrate Advent and Christmas at home. If your family does choose to travel, please follow the travel guidance on the Health Department website found here. The rules and guidance for quarantining change frequently. The health department will list the most updated information regarding hotspots and methods of travel. The link for the website can always be found on our webpage under the Safe Together tab in our Family Guidebook.
- In the event of a family emergency in which the student must travel to a “hot-spot” in the United States and must quarantine for 14 days upon his or her return, the student’s family should contact the school, and we will quickly start the online learning onboarding process. Please Note: Families should only exercise this option in times of true necessity, not for discretionary travel or vacations.
Switching to HOME Learning
Families wishing to consider having their child(ren) become a new consistent HOME Learner will be making the commitment from November 2nd to January 4th. HOME Learners are asked to commit to this time period in order to provide consistency for your learner and for the teachers involved. If you are interested in switching to HOME Learning for this time period, we ask that you prayerfully fill out form at this link no later than Friday, October 30th.
Thank you for your confidence in our task force as we continue our 25th year of learning at Saint Brigid of Kildare School. We will continue to communicate regularly as our plans continue to develop. Msgr. Hendricks and the school staff are committed to holding true to the mission of the Church to fully support families in caring for their children and in educating them in the Catholic faith, providing academic excellence and social and emotional support.
Please continue to pray for our school community and for each other.