COVID-19 message from Principal Sepich on March 15, 2020

Hello SPSL families,

I hope you are all doing well. It has been a whirlwind past few days as we all try and figure out what to do in uncertain times. The Governor’s office, Douglas County Health, the Archdiocese of Omaha and the Superintendent of Catholic Schools are continuing to provide updates and new information to us in how to handle the COVID-19 situation for a school setting. This is a very fluid situation and as we learn more we will be sharing that information with you. Last Friday, Governor Ricketts stated in his press conference that if there were 2 cases of community spread (unable to track back to original source) that schools will be closed for 6 to 8 weeks. Yesterday, the first community spread was identified. Right now, we are preparing for not “if” schools will be closed for an extended period of time but “when”.

The COVID-19 crisis is something that is new and it has presented unique challenges for us educators. As I have reached out and collaborated with many local Catholic school leaders, one extra challenge that faces SPSL is that we were out all last week with our scheduled spring break. Other schools were naturally more prepared for the recent school closures this week as those schools were in session this past week and thus could prepare homework and study packets as well as have students take home textbooks or other necessary learning materials that were at their schools. Although the spring break was a great and much needed restitution of spirit and energy for teachers and students, it also has us trying to figure out things for next week’s closure and potentially beyond.

The current reality is that all of our teachers are coming off of spring break and are in the same proverbial boat as our families. Therefore, because last week was a planned break, our teachers were not expected to grade papers or plan lessons, although many of our hard working teachers probably did those things anyway. Many of our teachers and staff were also traveling out of state and even the country. Part of our reasoning for this closure of schools across the Archdiocese was for all of us to monitor our collective healths and symptoms after an extended period of travel before unknowingly bringing anything back into our school community and put our vast group of stakeholders at risk.

Thus, I feel it is prudent to give our staff the same time we are giving our entire school community to assess their health and make sure we are not potentially spreading the COVID-19 virus. Our teachers and staff may also have children staying home or other family members they are responsible for and thus that creates unique challenges for them to be able to plan as they are also dealing with these current COVID-19 realities in real time too. Thus, it is unfair, in my opinion, to have our teachers have all the materials and lessons ready for our students by this upcoming Tuesday given these circumstances.

However, that being said, given time, I am certain that our talented teachers, with the guidance and help of our administrative and office teams, will be able to look at our plans from previous years as well as plans for this year and have things we can share with our students and families for this week starting Monday March 23rd and if there are any extended absences from school. To do this, I will need to be able to give my teachers ample time to prepare work that will not be the proverbial “busy work” for our students but instead be purposeful and planned work/lessons that will help them to grow as students.

As we all know, our country is in a state of emergency and we are all trying to navigate this health crisis both as professionals but also parents and family members. Our teachers are also in the same position as our families and for the next week and beyond, it will take patience, flexibility and understanding to support our teachers in preparing quality, well planned student work and assignments for our students. Thus, I will be asking our teachers to take this upcoming week (March 16th – 20th) to help plan for our students’ distance learning and communicate with our families by Friday, March 20th on how things will proceed and look moving forward with distance learning. It is our hope to have our “SPSL Distance Learning Plan” sent to our families by this Friday, March 20th and distance learning starting on Monday, March 23rd.

With this fluid plan, you may be aware that some area Catholic schools have decided to allow families in the building Monday and Tuesday to pick up materials and supplies while others have decided against that. After consultation, we have decided that it is in the best interest of our school community’s collective health and safety not to have families or students come in to get books, supplies, and other resources in the immediate future. If it is determined that certain grade levels may need books, materials or supplies from the classrooms, we will determine alternative plans if need be and communicate those plans to the families.

In the meantime, our administration team is already working on a “SPSL Distance Learning Plan” to help provide faculty and families guidance and resources for as long as we may be out of school and needing to be creative in educating our students. This plan will also rely on the collaboration and constant planning and feedback from our teachers. As you are probably aware, this is a fluid process and administration is in the continual process of working on this plan and will stay in communication with you all as things change and are added. Our teachers will also be in contact with our families on educational related communication. We have also created a COVID-19 or coronavirus page on our school website that our families can access via “Daily Announcements” by the date any updates are issued.

Please know that the above plans are as of tonight, Sunday, March 15th. However, things are changing rapidly and these plans may need to change due to that responsiveness. Any changes will be communicated to our families via email so thank you for checking your emails diligently. Thank you for all of your support and understanding. These are uncertain times that are forcing us all to work together and be patient, flexible and understanding as we navigate this new terrain together. We are learning a lot as we go and I appreciate all of your empathy and support for our teachers and for our school’s leadership.

Cory Sepich