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Walsh, STCS students adjust to online learning, take-home meals

Wed, Apr 1st 2020 09:00 am

OLEAN — As with other schools in the area, educators at Southern Tier Catholic School and Archbishop Walsh Academy suddenly found themselves hurrying to pull together distance learning programs after the campus closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jessica Policastro, director of marketing and alumni relations, provided details on educators and staff who have stepped up to ensure students received online educational instruction as well as distribution of curbside pick-up meals this past week.

“It’s going so smoothly, we’re pleasantly surprised that the kids have adapted well,” Policastro said. “The teachers have been rushing to get everything going.

“We have been having online instruction for students, Montessori through 12th grade, since Monday and teachers have been continuing to teach from home,” she continued. “We are utilizing Google Classroom and Google Meet to post assignments and hold daily office hours for students to video chat with their teachers.”

In addition, students are receiving weekly assignments and submitting them for grades electronically.

“We also have a system in place for our handful of students who do not have reliable internet access,” Policastro said. “We are creating take-home packets and coordinating a curbside pick- up for parents.”

Policastro said the students’ lunches are prepared by cafeteria manager Sean Budd who continues to make lunches for the twice-a-week distribution that covers meals all five days.

“We’re doing this for the whole school, so every student gets a free lunch,” she said, noting each of the lunch packets contain multiple meals.

In addition to academic curriculum, students have also continued on with their religious studies, said Mary Lou Plesac, director of spiritual life.

“We were supposed to have an all-school penance service (for Lent) that first day we closed,” Plesac recalled. “The priests in the area, from St. Marys and St. John’s, usually come and talk to all the kids” as well as take confessions and offer blessings.

“It was kind of sad,” she said of the cancellation of the service.

In addition to continuing with Bible studies for the students, Plesac also expects to provide spiritual guidance to students, as needed.

She said she has obtained ideas for virtual retreats and prayer services for the students through several Zoom meetings she participated in with high school religion teachers across the country this past week.

“I take into consideration that not all of our students are Catholic, we have a wide range of faiths and those who don’t practice faiths, so I try and think along those lines, too,” she explained. “But all Christians recognize Holy Week (the week before Easter), and the vast majority of our students are Christian.”

With that in mind, Plesac plans to post virtual Stations of the Cross, among other online features.

“I’ve always been available for the whole school, from the 3-year-olds up to the 18-year-olds for any kind of guidance,” Presac added. “I’m available in any way I can … It’s very, very important to our mission. “We’ve always accepted all faiths and we’re very respectful of all faiths. Jesus Christ and the Christian message is part of our philosophy.”

On a final note, Policastro said the janitorial staff has been deep cleaning the closed building to make sure it is ready when staff and students are allowed to return.

(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)




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