Tim DeJardin encourages students with a congratulatory poster during an end-of-the-year parade at St. Patrick’s Catholic School in Hudson. Behind him, teachers Jenny Palmer and Kari Schmidtknecht also cheer on students and their families. (Submitted photo)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

Catholic schools in the Diocese of Superior ended their academic year in unprecedented style, which has been the new normal since the coronavirus pandemic restrictions went into place in mid-March.

Innovation, teamwork, mutual support and dependence on virtual means of communication have also been the new normal.
School administrators, faculty and staff have coordinated with parents – many times with surprises for students – to ensure the year ended on positive notes, especially for those graduating from their final year of Catholic education.
Many schools adapted plans for May’s Teacher Appreciation week, and parents arranged for teachers to still feel appreciated. Parents even received signs of appreciation from some teachers for their role in the at-home learning model.

Superior’s Cathedral School, similar to many of the schools with graduating eighth-graders, held a virtual Mass and awards ceremony. Diplomas and awards were delivered by the principal.

Many of the schools held drive-by parades – either at the school building for all students and/or passing by graduates’ homes, honking horns and parading signs and balloons.

A few schools have postponed graduation ceremonies until later in the summer.

On June 9, Bishop James P. Powers and Superintendent of Schools Peggy Schoenfuss released a letter acknowledging the challenges and successes of the last months as well as addressing tentative plans for the start of the 2020-21 school year.

“First and foremost” the letter, addressed to diocesan Catholic school parents, expressed gratitude “for the wonderful care and work you have done to help educate your children by working with and cooperating with our teaching staffs during these unprecedented times.”

“We hope that you truly experienced the blessing of your family and the time you’ve had to spend with them,” the letter continued. “God has found us all time to put family first – maybe not in the way we would have liked, but he is truly in charge.”

The bishop and superintendent acknowledged the reports, opinions and suggested guidelines being released from numerous sources.

“What we would like to assure you, is that our schools are planning to re-open in the fall in our traditional face-to-face mode, unless legitimate authorities do not allow it,” the letter stated.

It was noted that principals have been meeting weekly with each other under the guidance of Schoenfuss. Much collaboration has taken place to share best practices and resources. These meetings will continue throughout the summer, “So each school can establish sound practices and plans to open up in the fall with safeguards that have scientific support.”

“Some of our guidelines and practices may look different than other schools in your area,” it said. One notable factor are the number of students per classroom that is usually much smaller than local public school numbers.

It was guaranteed that “we will make the best judgment for the safety of your children as well as for productive and exemplar teaching and learning.”

The letter also noted that with each of the 14 schools in different cities and counties within the diocese, “each school may have differing plans and procedures due to their location’s situations.”

“However, even though they may ‘look’ different, we can assure you that their decisions have been researched and provide the best and safest learning environment for your child.”

The full letter to Catholic school parents is available at catholicdos.org/schools.