Last March when the pandemic first made its public display, our school, like so many others, rapidly switched to remote learning. In 48 hours, the staff of Saint Dominic Academy in Lewiston and Auburn, Maine, took its 80 years of experience and transitioned to remote learning with rather good results. The students learned, perhaps not as much as they would have in a normal year, but learn they did.
After a unique graduation experience, we started our summer plans considering what we would do in the next school year. It rapidly became apparent that a return to school as "normal" was not likely to occur; however, we were not willing to forego a chance to improve our student’s lot. Building upon what was known about the virus, we developed a method to educate our students in the classroom safely, while still leaving an option for remote learning. We ventilated our classrooms, installed no-touch water fountains, instituted more in-depth cleaning, and required our teachers and students to wear masks. Social distancing in a school setting is challenging at best, and while the adults, the teachers, and staff, could be expected to keep proper distancing, the students simply will not do that consistently, especially in high school.
What is the result of nearly a full year of full-time on-campus education? We have had 0 cases of in-school transmission of COVID-19. None of the teachers or staff have gotten ill from the students and none of the students have spread the disease while at school. We are now in the fourth quarter of the year, and while the experience of in-classroom instruction with desks spread apart, and the experience of teaching students in cohorts has been unique, it has not impaired the students learning. In the cases in which COVID-19 did appear in families, we sent the cohorts to quarantine. In none of these cases did evidence of in-school transmission appear.
What can be learned from this? It is not only possible, but it is very practical to open our schools even at the height of the pandemic. COVID-19 is a real and present danger, especially to those who are older or have complications. It is not a laughing matter. It is not something to be taken lightly. Our school did not remain disease-free by chance. It remains a safe place to send your child because we work as a team. Our parents each morning check their students to make sure they are healthy. Our staff likewise are health-screened daily. We check the students as they arrive and if anyone is showing symptoms, we have them examined by medical professionals before we clear them for attendance.
The students in America have now gone nearly a year and a half outside the classroom. While the standardized test scores are still coming in, evidence shows that most remote students have not kept pace and many of them will be far behind where they ought to be. Students in many Catholic schools have instead been in class and have advanced apace. This is a wonderful thing for those students and families and will allow them a great advantage going forward.
Catholic schools exist to educate any child who wants to come to us. We do not discriminate based upon religious belief. We also do not pretend we are anything but who we are. We are blessed with dedicated and talented staff who are willing to go the extra mile. The safety of students, the mental health of students, and the well-being of students drive our decisions.
Saint Dominic Academy in Lewiston and Auburn Maine is showing how to safely educate children while keeping teachers safe. We invite you to keep your kids on track safely by joining us today. Explore more at Why St. Dom's?