COVID-19 message from Principal Sepich on March 18, 2020

Hello SPSL Community members,

It feels like not too long ago I sent out an announcement about school closures for this week and so much has happened since I last communicated with you all. Attached to this email is the press release from the Archdiocese of Omaha announcing that:

“The Archdiocese of Omaha is preparing its 71 schools for remote learning that begins Monday, March 23 and could last as long as six to eight weeks. The archdiocese is following the recommendations by Governor Pete Ricketts and Nebraska Commissioner of Education Matthew Blomstedt.

“The duration and nature of this extended closing will be reviewed with health and civic authorities every two weeks,” said Dr. Michael Ashton, the archdiocese’s superintendent of schools.

Ashton said each school will be informing their communities this week on how they plan to transition to and sustain quality remote learning for the foreseeable future.”

With that press release, this is my communication to you that SPSL will be continuing to have the school closed beyond this week up until at least April 3rd. Currently, our faculty and staff are preparing for the real possibility that we will be out longer than April 3rd as we do not know what will happen beyond that date and what the health and civic authorities will say in their review at that time.

With all of the above stated, in these unprecedented times, I have so been uplifted by the SPSL community’s response to this crisis. The response includes our second-to-none teachers collaborating with each other and with our administration on our “SPSL Long Distance Learning Plan” that we will have out to our families by this Friday. Already, exemplary teachers have astounded me (but to no surprise, due to their talents) with their ideas on using new means/plans to educate our students while everyone is at home. I am also so appreciative of all the emails of support and care for our teachers and our administration. Your collective words of kindness and prayers mean more than you could ever know and I appreciate you all knowing that in this unparalleled moment in time, we are making decisions that are unique in response and due to this uniqueness, we hope and pray that we are doing what is best for all of our school community. Please know that all of our decisions, especially given this crisis, have been in consultation with local health and safety experts and these decisions are with our school community members’ health and safety at the forefront. Right now, your school’s faculty and staff are working harder than ever and around the clock to educate your students to the standard and level you expect from St. Pius X / St. Leo Catholic School.

With the “SPSL Distance Learning Plan” our families will receive on Friday, what is very important is the understanding that this distance learning plan is a fluid plan, aimed at providing faculty and families guidance and resources for as long as we may be out of school. This also includes creative ways to help our families join in our students’ education while they are at home and away from their classrooms. Moreso, it also includes ways for our students to interact as much as possible with their amazing teachers and classmates.

Above all else we want students and families to be healthy– physically, mentally, and socially. With this “SPSL Distance Learning Plan”, if the school work provided is stressful to your child during this time, please know that we will work with you to make sure that your child’s learning while away from our building is not a detriment to their well-being. We know that research shows that stress levels could be increased by doing schoolwork at home during a crisis, so we want all of our collective efforts with this plan to help and not hurt our students. Our purpose with this plan is not for our families to get bombarded with the at-home learning assignments. In this time, we know that some of our older students may have to babysit their younger siblings, cousins or neighbors. We also know that some families have many students all fighting over the same device or may not have internet access or access to a device at all. We also know that some parents are having to work overtime to make ends meet as another parent is staying home. Sadly, we also know that some parents are scared that they might lose their job. This breaks my heart and I am praying for you. This “SPSL Distance Learning Plan” is meant to be flexible and a support for students and families. We trust your judgment as your students’ primary and principal educator on what is feasible and what is best for your family.

Thank you also for your continued support for our teachers and the school community. Right now, our teachers are tasked with trying to do the best they can (and they are the best) to manage this present reality and try and continue to educate your children while also managing the same family responsibilities facing us all. Personally, this has been a stark realization the past three days as I have struggled to balance being a working parent with kids with me at home, while also being your school’s leader and then also being a facilitator of my childrens’ learning at our home. I appreciate all your patience in regards to communication with our teachers and staff as we get through this tough time together. Right now, “up to 72 hours” is a reasonable expectation for response times in email communication with our faculty and staff on any educational needs during this distance learning. I also hope things get better very soon and I apologize for any delays in my own personal responses to your communications via email.

We also know that a major challenge at the moment is trying to figure out with your families and kids about what to do when they are home and away from school for so long. In the article “How to Approach School Closures During COVID-19”  “, there are lots of great suggestions for families on tips for at home. Most importantly, my suggestion is to talk with your children about what we value as Catholic school community members with this health crisis. I believe that this is an opportunity for us to remind each other that God does not abandon us and he is always with us during times of great stress and anxiety. Right now it is vital to remember to pray and follow in Jesus Christ’s footsteps and trust in him, to treat every person with respect and as children of God while remembering to care for one another, especially our sick and most vulnerable populations. I love the SPSL community because we truly embrace what it means to be a community and live out our Catholic school mission. I know and empathize that it is very hard not to be frustrated by the inconveniences this crisis has caused us at home and within our school community. I also hope we have a perspective on what is most important at this moment. With these frustrations, it can also be hard to remember that these inconveniences are because we are trying our best to keep our most vulnerable brothers and sisters safe and healthy. I know that it is normal and completely acceptable to feel frustrated and upset by how our daily lives have been affected by this crisis. I have also come to find that as SPSL community members, we pride ourselves on doing our best as teachers, staff members, parents and community members to teach and model what is most important and what really matters to our children during these anxious times. They are looking to us and learning from us all the time, especially in a moment in history that they will remember the rest of their lives and will be a defining moment in our collective histories.

Thank you for all of your continued support and understanding. These are uncertain times that are forcing us all to 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 employees. I have received so many emails and phone calls the past week stating that our community is praying for our school and parish leaders and I cannot tell you how much that means to me. Thank you so much! Please know that I am praying for all of you and your families too and I appreciate our community’s collective optimism, creativity and Catholic spirit.

Cory Sepich
St. Pius X / St. Leo School