April 24, 2020

Dear Parents and Students,

I hope this email finds you well despite all of the stress and difficulties surrounding us at this time. For me, these past six weeks have felt like six months, and the thought of gathering in a group seems like a distant memory. Nonetheless, I know that brighter days are ahead, and we will come out stronger on the other side. We continue to keep all of those effected by this virus and those working on the front lines in our prayers.

We concluded our fourth full week of online learning today. Our faculty continues to do a fantastic job delivering instruction and our students are doing very well participating in our distance learning program. Attendance and work completion so far this week is right around 94 percent. I remain appreciative for everyone's continued efforts.

While school buildings in Connecticut are officially closed through May 20, the prospect of returning to the classroom this school year does not look overly promising. As I observe the great academic progress that has been made, my attention has now shifted to ensuring we provide for the social and emotional needs of our community.

I received several emails from students this week. A group even took it upon themselves to gather some feedback and data to share with me. That information, coupled with some additional exchanges with students, and a general observation of the heightened stress levels everywhere, has me concerned. This virus has seized nearly complete control over our lives. As I read information from our own students this week, the apparent level of stress and anxiety in many is both understandable and worrisome.

I remind everyone that even though we are not in the building together each day, there are still support resources available for students. In an attempt to support the social and emotional needs of our community, we are taking the following steps:
  • Guidance counselors and our social worker remain available for conversation with individual students. Students or parents can contact counselors via email to arrange a time to connect or visit during posted office hours (on Guidance's Google Classroom page).
  • Mrs. Seperack - lseperack@notredame.org
  • Ms. Tiftikidis - mtiftikidis@notredame.org
  • Mr. Mones - wmones@notredame.org
  • Ms. McGowan - smcgowan@notredame.org
  • Should the interest exist, Ms. McGowan, our social worker, will offer a group environment for students to come together to discuss their thoughts and issues about the struggles associated with shelter at home and distance learning.
  • As previously announced, Google Meet sessions will expand from two days to three beginning next week in an effort to promote more face-to-face contact and interaction between students and teachers.
  • Teachers have been asked to check-in with students on a regular basis during Google Meet sessions.
  • We will continue our outreach to students and parents when academic or emotional concerns are raised.
  • Our Chaplain, Deacon John, is available for spiritual conversations. Any members of our community can reach out via email to arrange a time to speak with Deacon John.
  • On Thursday evening at 7:00 pm, all are invited to join the community in prayer. Deacon John will lead evening prayer. To receive a Zoom invitation to join this online prayer group, please click here.
  • Please continue to add your prayer intentions to our prayer list. Click here to submit prayer intentions.
  • We are exploring an opportunity to open "Class Lounges" for students to come together by grade once per week in an online video session at the end of the "school day" to connect, see their classmates, or just say hello. These sessions will be supervised by an adult and more information will be announced shortly.
  • Teachers will be posting office hours beginning next week for students to receive extra help and/or to check in.
  • I will be hosting another evening of Kahoot trivia for our students next week, and we are planning an online activity to engage with all of our families. Details for both coming next week.
  • Our Always a Lancer campaign will continue to focus on spreading positivity and the ND spirit into our local communities.

A few additional updates:
Our new online format will launch next week when our Google Classroom and Google Meet days will reverse. Google Meet days will be held on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Google Classroom days will occur on Wednesdays and Fridays.

The proposed time change for student work submissions on Google Classroom days seems to have significantly increased the level of stress in some students. While I do not think completing work at 11:30 pm is the most educationally sound practice, we do not want to add additional stress to lives right now so we will keep the time due for work at 11:59 pm for the time being.

The new Google Meet class schedule:
  • Period B - 9:00 - 9:35
  • Period C - 9:40 - 10:15
  • Period D - 10:20 - 10:55
  • Period E 11:00 - 11:35
  • Period F - 11:40 - 12:15
  • Lunch - 12:15 - 12:45
  • Period G - 12:50 - 12:25
  • Period H - 1:30 - 2:05

AP Exams
Reminder: Monday is the deadline for students to opt-out of taking an AP exam in May. If a student who was planning to take the AP exam does not wish to still do so, they are asked to email Mr. Bannon , their AP teacher and Ms. Tiftikidis by April 27 to explain their reasoning. Quite frankly, the opportunity to earn three college credits with a 45 minute free response exam taken at home is a fantastic opportunity. Many colleges and universities across the country have pledged to accept scores from the 2020 AP exams.

Spring Sports
The CIAC announced that spring sports tournaments are cancelled but will wait for additional direction regarding any possible return to the classroom this spring before deciding upon the status of spring sports in late May and June.

Senior Trip Refunds
Refund checks from the cancelled senior class trip will be mailed to parents early next week.

Financial Aid Application Deadline
Financial aid awards (for all completed applications) and tuition contracts for 2020-21 will be mailed on Monday. Families who have not yet applied for financial aid are reminded of the May 15 extended deadline.

Thank you again for your tremendous patience and support over the past six weeks. Please know that the social and emotional needs of our community is at the forefront of my mind, and we pledge to do our best to continue to support each of our students during this time of great uncertainty. Please be well and stay safe.

Christopher Cipriano
Notre Dame High School | Fairfield, CT 06825 | 203-372-6521| notredame.org