Hawai‘i Catholic Schools go to digital learning

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    St. Theresa School art teacher Somer Rickards prepare art supplies for the Learning Kits, Monday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    St. Theresa School fifth and sixth grade teacher Terri Jacobson checks student desks for readiness to return from spring break, Monday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    Wendy Castillo watches as St. Theresa School teachers Kasie Cadiente and Aphziri Barretto prepare materials for the learning packets, Monday.

  • Dennis Fujimoto/The Garden Island

    St. Theresa School kindergarten teacher Kim Johnson helps third grade teacher Lorrie Walker prepare lesson plans for the Learning Kit, Monday.

KEKAHA — Learners and parents at St. Theresa School will be issued learning packets starting Wednesday and continuing through Friday at the school’s back parking lot.

Requests for Chromebook (laptop computer) check out must be completed via email to the learner’s respective teacher by Tuesday afternoon.

If successfully completed, the computer and learning packets will be available from 7 a.m. to noon on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

“As we know, COVID-19 restrictions and recommendations are changing by the day,” said Wendy Castillo, the St. Theresa School principal in a letter to the school’s parents. “We do not know how long our campus will remain closed. STS will support home learning by providing plans, materials, and in-person support in all core subjects throughout this crisis.”

A similar situation faces St. Catherine School in Kapa‘a, the second Catholic school on Kaua‘i that operates under the Hawai‘i Catholic School umbrella.

“Our parochial schools will be postponing ‘in-person’ classes through April 10,” states a letter to school administrators from Dr. Mike Rockers, Hawai‘i Catholic School superintendent of schools. “This extension will allow us all to stabilize our distance learning and focus on supporting our students and families the best we can.”

DJ Adams, the principal at St. Catherine School said they will activate its online education program for students in PreK 3 through Grade 8 starting March 30.

“This model allows for delivery of education to our students which is vital to their academic success, plus ensures that salaried employees are paid,” Adams said. “We will commence distribution and collection of the PreK3 to Grade 2 work on March 30 which was our original return to school day. This will take place between 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. As per the mayor’s wishes, we will not have more than 10 employees on campus at any time.”

Adams said the St. Catherine School students in Grades 3 through 8 already have electronic accounts, and can take home their school Chromebook if needed between the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We already use School Speaks in all those classes so fortunately, we can roll into this educational delivery model fairly easily,” Adams said. “We have shared with St. Theresa School that we do not wish to extend the school year, so all the work assigned has value, merit, and can be used for assessment and grade placement for the 2020-2021 school year.”

Combined, the St. Theresa School and St. Catherine School represent approximately 300 students between PreK through grade 8.

On a similar vein, approximately 46,000 students and 9,700 faculty and staff within the University of Hawai‘i system returned to 10 campuses from spring break to face an all courses online lifestyle in order to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

“Our faculty have been working amazingly hard,” said UH president David Lassner in a release. “Those that are experienced have been helping their colleagues that are new to teaching online, or having to learn a whole new set of skills and practices to bring their virtual classrooms to their students. We think our students are very well equipped to adapt to fully online learning. Most of them have already taken one or more online classes. But it does change things when all of their classes are online.”

Castillo said the distribution of packets marks the start of the first phase of the distance learning project that is geared toward introduction to both parents and students. The second phase which is calendared to start after the Hawai‘i Catholic Schools’ return to class date of April 13 involves in-person learning and will be based on the COVID-19 guidelines and rules in place when the program reaches that point.

“Teachers will post lesson plans by 9 a.m. daily starting March 30,” Castillo said in her parents’ letter. “Not all subjects will be assigned every day, as we don’t expect you to put in seven hours of home study every day. A lesson plan always begins with an ‘I Can’ objective. Often, the same objective is repeated for several days…mastery takes time. The goal is to work toward that objective in different ways as children learn in a variety of ways, and at different paces. Try not to let the work become meaningless ‘busy work,’ and feel free to goggle around to find online games and activities that address the objective.”

Adams said this has been an incredible blessing to work with such dedicated professionals that had most of the materials prepared before the school headed off to spring break.

“Their vision, flexibility, and passion about student success comes shining through in this global issue,” Adams said. “Going forward, the biggest challenge will be keeping the personal connection with our learning community as centuries of research always indicate great teaching comes from the nature of the relationship between the student and the teacher.”

“Based on my humble observations, the great people of Kaua‘i are definitely up for the obstacles that COVID-19 will bring to the Garden Island,” the St. Catherine principal said. “There are centuries of examples of the people here stepping up again and again to overcome even the most difficult circumstances. And we will, again.”


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.


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