- 2nd Quarter Updates & Attendance
- Reopening Protocols - 9/17/20
- September Update - 9/2/20
- Welcome Back Orientation Packet - 8/1/20
- In-Depth Plan Update - 7/17/20
- Summer Athletic Camps Postponed - 7/7/20
- In-Depth Plan Update - 6/26/20
- Summer Update - 6/12/20
- Letter from Principal Eric Stroup - 5/12/20
- First Week of School Recap - 9/25/20
- Letter to JSerra Community from President Rich Meyer - 5/8/20
- Year-End Decisions Letter - 4/17/20
- Letter from Principal Eric Stroupe - 3/16/20
- Letter from JSerra Administration - 3/13/20
- JSerra Coronavirus Response - 3/12/20
It is a little hard to reconcile that today is the last day of the first quarter. In some respects, the last few months have seemed like quite a long journey, and yet it seems as if the time has also flown by. We have much to be proud about as a school this past quarter. Canvassing all of the work required to get students on campus, I take pride in working with a dedicated staff of people who are committed to education and who have worked particularly hard this year to serve your children. As a school community, we are quite blessed. I also thank you for your partnership. Private schools cannot operate without the support of parents and we have been very thankful for the many words of encouragement that has come our way over the summer and into the fall.
Speaking of the parent-school relationship, this Wednesday (October 14), teachers will be hosting virtual Parent-Teacher Conferences from 1:30-4:00 p.m. Perhaps you have already been contacted by your child’s teachers to sign up for a slot that day. Please note that the slots for many teachers have already filled. While we would love to offer unlimited days/timeslots for conferences, that simply would not be fair to our teachers. If you find that a teacher is already fully booked and you feel the need to meet with him/her to discuss your child’s academic progress, I would ask that you contact the individual teacher to see if they have time to meet virtually or on the phone the following week. The primary purpose of parent-teacher conferences is to help identify strategies for students that might be struggling in a particular class. Rest assured that if your child is struggling and the timeslots for a given teacher are all taken, the teacher will contact you — if he/she already hasn’t — to find a time to meet/talk on the phone.
October 14th is also an important day for our juniors. They are the only students who need to attend school that day as they will be taking the PSAT. The PSAT is an important test as it is often the first "college" exam that students take and it is used to determine who might eventually become a National Merit Scholar. Last year we had nine students (current seniors) qualify for National Merit Scholarship consideration based on their PSAT results. Let’s see if the Class of 2022 can top that! I would encourage parents of juniors — as I am — to have their children take a practice test or two this weekend in preparation for Wednesday’s exam.
Finally, as we end the quarter, I want to again raise the issue of students unnecessarily attending classes online. Again, the school is completely supportive of students who need to attend classes virtually due to legitimate health issues. Our challenge has been students who attend classes in person one day, at home the next, and then back at school the next. This has primarily been an issue for our junior and senior classes. Going back and forth, with teachers having no idea as to whether an individual student would be at school or at home from day to day, causes an unnecessary burden on teachers. By this point, at the end of the quarter, it is reasonable for us to know whether your child will be regularly attending school in person or will be virtual for the duration of the second quarter. As such, we would ask that all parents please complete this form which identifies which of the two learning modalities your child will be using this second quarter.
If an in-school student becomes ill or is injured and needs to go virtual for a prescribed period, that is, of course, wholly acceptable. We would simply ask for a note from the parent in that case or, if more than three consecutive days of missed school, a note from the student’s physician. It is the students who frequently migrate between modalities that are posing the challenge for our teachers. We have even had students not attend school during the day and then show up for athletic conditioning after school. Going forward, students who miss in-person school will not be allowed to participate in in-person extra-curricular activities (athletics) that day.
As noted in earlier emails, teachers bear the brunt of instructing students in two learning platforms. Knowing reliably who will be in person each day does much to support their work. I appreciate your support of our teachers by ensuring your child is consistent in their school attendance.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
We are providing you with our plans for reopening school for in-person instruction this Tuesday (September 22). Please read the document carefully, paying special attention to the "COVID 19 Family Health Commitment" form which needs to be electronically submitted. Note that if you have multiple children attending JSerra, you will need to complete and submit that form for each child. This form must be completed by Tuesday, September 22.
We have also received a few parent emails regarding operations that I wanted to address. In terms of student books, please note that students should not bring all of their school books with them. There are no student lockers available, and carrying all books would be a challenge! Teachers will let students know if the student needs to bring a particular book to campus on a particular day. Put another way, there is no assumption from teachers that students are bringing all of their books to school every day.
As noted in our plans, the McMackin Bistro will be open starting on Tuesday. Students need to use their ID card to pay for their food and beverage purchases, and to do that, students need to have funds in their accounts. If you plan to have your child purchase food and beverages from the McMackin Bistro, please click here to get directions on setting up your account. The Bistro will be open before school from 7:00-7:45 a.m., as well as at both breaks and lunches.
Finally, please know our teachers are working tirelessly to provide your child with an outstanding education. This new teaching environment is presenting them with new challenges with which they must contend. Several teachers have noted in addition to the increased workload during the day, they are having to deal with significantly more student and parent emails compared to a normal year. I would ask that you show our faculty grace in responding to emails. We still expect teachers to respond to emails in 24 hours, or by the end of the next school day, but just know they are having to respond to a lot more this year.
We have been waiting for what has seemed an eternity to get all of our students back to campus. We know new policies and procedures will be different for all involved, but we are excited to bring a sense of normalcy to our students. They deserve it, and you, as parents, do as well! Please be assured that we are fully cognizant that we will need to assess all school operations and, if necessary, make changes. For this reason, next week will be important for us as we are dedicated to ensuring our educational environment is a safe one for staff and students.
We are frustrated. We know many of you are as well. We have remained hopeful since the beginning of the school year that we would be able to welcome your sons and daughters back to campus. We have worked tirelessly to this end -- hiring additional teaching staff, modifying the layout of our campus, investing significant resources in classroom technology enhancements, and preparing a safe and healthy environment for our beloved staff and student body. The "shifting of the goalposts" last week by the governor was a grave disappointment.
And yet... we persevere. As the date to begin in-person instruction for area high schools has been changed to later this month, we move forward with continued eagerness and optimism. It is good news that all of the newly established metrics are being achieved in Orange County that would allow for this to happen. Thus, we have now set September 22 to be our return-to-campus date. In preparation for that day, please note we have set aside Monday, September 21 as an in-service day for teachers and an on-campus orientation day for freshmen and transfer students. As such, no formal classes will take place that day. To be very candid, while we look forward to school opening in a few short weeks, if the rules were to change once again, we will need to explore other avenues of recourse to provide an educational experience that we very well know to be in the best interest of our students' intellectual, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being.
When you have a moment, would you please complete this short survey and provide us with feedback on the start of the school year? Despite the circumstances that have us all at moments feeling powerless, we remain committed to partnering with you in making the absolute best out of these trying times. We are emboldened by our faculty who are working particularly hard to provide your children with an outstanding education. And we are encouraged by our students who soldier through distance learning, knowing they, too, want nothing more than to be back on campus.
We are excited for you to have the opportunity to meet our teachers tomorrow night (Thursday, September 3) at our virtual Back to School Night. Tomorrow's weekly "Lion Lowdown" newsletter emailed to families will have an introduction from us as well as directions for how to access the welcome videos that our teachers have prepared for you.
Our strength is in our unity. We are deeply appreciative for your continued support of JSerra and remain indebted to you for your continued prayers for wisdom, courage, and prudence in making the best decisions for our school community.
Please take some time this weekend to review with your sons and daughters the Welcome Back Orientation Packet attached to this e-mail. It is broken into two parts:
- The first is a section containing our final plan to open campus.
- The second offers important information about back-to-school logistics.
Orientation sessions for all students and new parents will be held August 10-13. Our school year will begin with a distance-learning model, and the first mandatory contact day for teachers and students will be Friday, August 14.
Please disregard the email that was sent at 6:45 p.m. this evening. We apologize for sending an incorrect version of the letter.
Today's announcement from Governor Newsom regarding the closure of the majority of both public and private schools across the state certainly impacts JSerra's plans as we look ahead toward August and the start of the school year. In the coming days we will be studying closely all options available to JSerra. As timing would have it, Principal Eric Stroupe and I had prepared to send out to you this afternoon the second of three in-depth communications for the summer. After reviewing our letter in light of Newsom's statement, I believe the majority of what we share still holds true, albeit along the possibility of a different timeline. Allow me to be very clear and definitive about our direction:
- JSerra will begin the school year, whether in-person or online, the week of August 10.
- In the event we are required to begin online, the technology enhancements we've made this summer will enable the majority of our teachers to provide real-time instruction to students from their classrooms aligned with our traditional seven-period schedule.
- This same technology will allow us to instantly pivot, quite literally overnight, from online to in-person instruction and vice-versa. Continuity of the education of your sons and daughters will be seamless.
Rather than delay this message regarding campus updates, I prefer to err on the side of giving you, today and now, a window into the world as we see it when the time comes to bring students back on campus. If this is delayed for an indeterminate period of time, I believe you'll find assurance that we are doing everything possible to create an unparalleled learning experience for our young men and women, regardless if this takes place on or off campus.
Considering the above, I encourage you to first watch the accompanying video highlighting many of the important campus changes (particularly in the realm of technology) that have already been made and those that are presently under way to prepare a safe and healthy environment for our students and staff. Then read the letter from Mr. Stroupe for a more detailed explanation of our plans to welcome our Lions back to the Den, whenever that is possible. Finally, I would be grateful if you would take a brief moment to answer a few survey questions assessing your level of comfort and family's personal approach regarding what we have shared with you.
Make no mistake, our desire is to have ALL LIONS ALL DAY on campus this fall. And while I am saddened at the thought of potentially beginning the school year without the eagerness and enthusiasm of your sons and daughters energizing our campus, I find rest and solace in the fact that our Lord is going to shower us with His grace and blessings if we remain faithful to Him during these most adverse of circumstances.
The words of our patron St. Junipero Serra are as relevant as ever. Let us together continue to blaze a path forward — siempre adelante — trusting in the plan our Lord has in store for us as we humbly seek to fulfill His will.
After consultation with the California Department of Public Health and the Orange County Health Care Agency, we are disappointed to inform you that JSerra has been directed to postpone our athletic summer camps until further notice. This disappointment is compounded by the fact that the last two days of camps on campus have been highly rewarding for both players and coaches. Everyone associated with JSerra Athletics was eager to "get back at it" and it was edifying to see all of the smiling faces in the midst of temperature checks and athletic clearance forms.
We look forward to being able to resume camps as soon as possible, and we will send notification about that restart once we receive it.
As always, we appreciate your patience and support.
We hope this email finds you healthy and enjoying the change of pace that summer often brings (and this summer particularly!). We want to take a moment to provide you with an update on our plans for reopening our campus in August. This has been a significant endeavor involving virtually every aspect of school-wide operations. Because recommendations and guidelines are regularly changing and research on the virus is continually emerging, we have had to be flexible in developing plans. The following is a summary of several key decisions we have made in terms of campus reopening. You are strongly encouraged to read the more in-depth plan found on the COVID-19 updates section of our website.
- Daily schedule. Students can expect to be on campus five days a week for a full day of instruction. ALL LIONS, ALL DAY!
- Social distancing. In the classroom and elsewhere on campus, measures are being enacted to support appropriate physical distancing to mitigate the spread of the virus.
- Education. The school is developing protocols for staff and students to ensure they are properly educated about the virus, how it is spread, and how personal hygiene measures can be used to prevent getting it.
- Screening. Students, staff, and visitors will need to be screened before they are allowed to enter campus.
- PPE. Vulnerable employees or those employees who work in highly trafficked areas will have extra PPE provided to them. As regards to masks, upon opening the school in August, JSerra will comply with state and county guidelines.
- Sanitization. School buildings will be sanitized daily. Highly trafficked indoor areas will be cleaned regularly during the day. Sanitization stations will be available throughout campus.
- Classroom technology. Upgrades to our classrooms last summer and this summer will be utilized to support distance learning, if needed, at both the individual and school-wide level.
- Virtual meetings. Meetings for staff and meetings between parents and the school will largely be conducted virtually to mitigate the potential spread of the virus.
- Extracurricular activities. The school plans to offer extracurricular activities (athletics, arts, activities, and campus ministry events) though they necessarily will be different this year.
- Out-of-state trips. All out-of-state trips have been cancelled for the first semester. Later in the fall, we will assess the viability of such trips for the spring.
- Parent communication/updates. We will continue to provide emailed updates to parents this summer as policies are refined and/or changed due to varying circumstances.
Again, please be sure to read the more in-depth plan found on our website. Next week, our Athletic Department will communicate the plans for beginning summer camps shortly after the July 4th holiday.
We also encourage your feedback. To that end, please look for an additional survey as we refine our policies and procedures this summer. If your family circumstances are unique, there will be an opportunity in the survey to make your concerns known to us so that we can make every effort to accommodate each one of our students. JSerra has always seen its educational endeavor as a partnership with parents, and perhaps at no time has that been more important than the present. We pray for your health and we look forward to a successful, if but different, 2020-21 school year.
To say that it was an interesting end to the semester would be the understatement of the year (or perhaps decade or century!). On behalf of the faculty, staff, and administration, I am thankful for your partnership, patience, and prayers as we all worked together for the greater good of our young men and women and the broader JSerra community. If by chance you didn't see the graduation for the Class of 2020 first-hand, take a moment to watch this brief one-minute highlight reel to witness JSerra's creative, entrepreneurial spirit in action. COVID-19 or not, we will continue to find solutions that enable us to provide a rich and formative experience for our students. This is the blessing of being an independent, Catholic school.
Recently, you received a survey that asked for your family's perspective on a number of areas related to the opening of the school in the fall. Let me be clear about one thing: we are working hard to prepare an environment that allows for the return of ALL LIONS, EVERY DAY to campus beginning August 10. Yes, we will abide by prevailing laws and regulations. And yes, we will also exercise our freedoms as a private, faith-based institution. This principle of subsidiarity — the notion that those in the position to best solve problems are those who are the closest to the problems themselves — has been at the core of our school's charism since our founding in 2003.
One of the lessons learned from the spring regarding distance learning is the need for regular student-teacher contact. To this end, and in preparation for the future possibility of a need to provide school-wide remote instruction if even for a brief period of time next year, we are further enhancing our educational infrastructure. Just last summer we added to all our classrooms high-resolution projectors, surround-sound audio, and integrated voice-projection technology for our faculty. We will now be installing conference cameras and additional displays that will allow students to participate in the physical classroom experience remotely. This will allow for synchronous (i.e., real-time) instruction, which will be critical for the continuity and efficacy of student learning as individual family circumstances may dictate from time to time.
In terms of communication between now and the beginning of the school year, we will be sharing with you several iterations of our procedures and protocols as they are developed (roughly at the end of June, the middle of July, and the beginning of August). Suffice it to say, though, our goal is to return to as normal a school environment as possible come August. Many questions remain to be answered regarding masks, cafeteria service, symptom monitoring, social distancing requirements, etc. And questions we answer today will likely change a week or a month from now. The operative word for this summer is going to be "patience." Just as we found a creative solution to honor the accomplishments of our graduating seniors, so too will we find the proper pathway to provide our students with an unparalleled educational experience that places the formation of faith and the cultivation of character and intellect at the forefront of all we do.
On a final and practical note, for those students eagerly awaiting the start of summer athletic camps, our hope is to begin these on or around the week of July 6. Guidance that is soon to be forthcoming from the CIF will help us to make the best decision in this regard for our students. I know our coaches are just as eager as our athletes to "get back in the game."
Over the next two months I ask for your continued prayers for JSerra and the many decisions that will need to be made to ensure that we open in August with a safe environment for your sons and daughters. Make no mistake, our singular goal is to prepare our campus in a manner that fills you with pride and confidence as a JSerra parent.
I hope this email finds you well. This has certainly been the strangest year at JSerra in my seventeen years at the school, and, like you, I look forward to a return to something approaching normalcy next year. As a Leadership Team, as Mr. Meyer's letter detailed last week, we are actively working on what the start of school will look like in the fall. However, the purpose of this email is to provide updates in terms of end of the year procedures and activities at the school.
With respect to the school calendar, this is the last week of classes for seniors. Seniors will be "done" this Friday with the JSerra coursework, and we share in their joy of completion. For all other students, classes will end next Wednesday, and with no finals this semester, the academic school year will be complete on May 20th, with a few exceptions.
One of those exceptions relates to Advanced Placement (AP) exams. If you are a parent of a student taking AP classes, you are probably aware that those exams started yesterday and extend through next Friday (May 22). (Late AP Exams will be held June 1-5). Students who take AP exams are not expected to be in their regular classes, so there may be a need for such students to work with their teachers to make up schoolwork or assessments if they missed class due to taking a scheduled AP exam.
Grade reports for the second semester should be mailed to parents during the week of June 2 as was originally scheduled. We have received some inquiries regarding whether JSerra would alter its grading scale in the second semester akin to what some public schools have done. While we understand the format of teaching and learning has been different in the fourth quarter, we are still comfortable that our grades are an accurate measure of our students' achievements. An initial analysis of our 4th quarter grades actually reflects that grades are in the aggregate higher than in previous fourth quarters, but we can live with that. The more important point is that we are glad teaching and learning could still take place. We know from both anecdotal evidence as well as from the decisions many schools and school districts made that many students in Orange County (and indeed the state and nation) effectively saw their education end in mid-March, which is forcing many schools and states to consider methods for students to "catch up", and we fortunately do not have to contend with that.
As was detailed in the Lion Lowdown last Thursday, locker cleanout began last week in Building 3 (Parr Hall) and occurred today and tomorrow for Building 2 (Busch Hall) (11 AM-3:00 PM on Wednesday). Building 1's locker cleanout schedule is slated for Thursday (9:00 AM-noon) and Friday (noon-3:00 PM). It is important to note that these dates and times are also applicable to any student who has belongings in their athletic lockers on the south campus. So, for example, if a student has a locker in building 1 and belongings in his/her athletics locker, he/she should come to campus to gather those items on either Thursday or Friday of this week. The "make-up" date and time for anyone who was unable to come to campus during the week is this Saturday (5/16) from 9:00-11:00 AM. If for some reason you cannot come to campus this week to remove any items from a locker, please contact our Director of Operations, Mr. Larry Layton (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can ensure any items left in a locker are not disposed.
Due to a change in services provided by our textbook company, Follett Virtual Campus, parents do not need to come to campus to sell books back to Follett. Instead, parents will be able to go online to Follett's used book website (valorebooks.com) and submit ISBNs for books they wish to sell. Parents will receive an instant quote from their website, which will also provide a prepaid shipping label. Please note that not all books will be bought back if a particular textbook is not being sold by Follett's next year. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Follett is not requiring the return of rental textbooks. Parents may keep them, give them to another student, or recycle them.
JSerra will still be offering most of our textbooks for sale through Follett beginning on May 11 for Summer School and on July 13 for the fall. Many Summer School textbooks are not yet in stock. Due to the pandemic, shipping issues continue to occur, and we will need to be flexible. If you are unable to purchase a textbook for summer term due to out of stock issues, please contact Mrs. Swedo to see if a loaner copy can be provided from our Library. Textbook information is always available on our Textbooks webpage under The Den. A full textbook list for both summer and fall terms will be provided on that webpage so you can shop other sites using ISBNs. If you have any questions, please email our Librarian, Mrs. Jeanne Swedo at email@example.com.
Award Ceremonies and Graduation
Due to the campus closure, we had to move both the Undergraduate and Senior Awards Ceremonies to a virtual format. The Undergraduate Award Ceremony will be recorded and a link to that video will be sent to parents during the week of May 25. The Senior Award Ceremony will be livestreamed on May 29th following the Baccalaureate Mass, which will also be livestreamed starting at 6:30 PM. Even if your child is not a senior, I encourage all parents to tune in. Specific information on how to access the livestream will be sent in future Lion Lowdowns.
Our commencement exercises for the class of 2020 will take place on May 30th at 5 PM. While this will be a live event on campus, anyone who wants to watch the graduation will also be able to livestream it as well. Mrs. Vandenberg will be sending an email to seniors and their parents by the end of this week with further graduation details.
Summer School and Summer Camps
Information regarding summer school was sent last week and can be found at www.jserra.org/summerschool. In short, with immediate uncertainties of social distancing, the options for summer school courses are online courses or independent studies, depending upon the course the student needs to take.
At this time, we are not certain as to when summer sports camps will begin. In prior years they would start in mid-June, coinciding with the beginning of summer school. We hope that they can begin in June this year, too, but we are unable to provide a definitive start date. As I am sure most of you are aware, the state of California has created a four stage process for the re-opening of the economy, and where athletics camps fall into the mix is uncertain, but it could be arguably the latter part of stage 2 or stage 3 and it could be sport dependent. The CIF is still determining what the 2020-21 sports calendar will look like and various scenarios are being discussed, including some that are sport specific. In any case, when we know the date when sports camps will begin, we will contact all parents with that information.
Another casualty of the COVID 19 pandemic is that there will likely be a delay in our distribution of yearbooks. Jostens, the company that manufactures our yearbooks, had factory closures which will result in our yearbooks arriving closer to May 29 rather than the normal arrival date of May 20. Consequently, yearbooks will be distributed the week of June 1, probably by class. An email with more specific information regarding that distribution will be sent as we near their arrival.
Athletic Fee and Graduation Fee Refunds
Refunds for spring athletic fees and for senior graduation fees began yesterday and will continue to be processed through the month of May. If you are due a refund, please be aware they should be returned via check or credit card (depending on what was specified).
Again, I pray you and your family are well. This experience has certainly created challenges for everyone, but I hope it has also allowed us to have better perspective on what matters most and to better appreciate those things we currently most miss. Every single teacher I have spoken to has stated just how much they miss being on campus being around their JSerra students, our children. I know our students yearn for the rhythms of a normal school day; our staff and faculty do, too.
As always, thank you for your continued support of JSerra.
We wanted to give you an overview of this first week of on-campus instruction. Getting students safely back to campus has been our primary mission the past six months, and despite being a painfully long endeavor, we are glad it finally happened! While we can’t necessarily see smiling faces under face masks, we certainly saw the twinkles in the eyes of our students these past four days telling us all without using words just how happy they are returning to school. Everyone single student who we asked, “Are you glad to be back?” answered in the affirmative. We can say with certainty in no prior year have we ever got that response by all students!
We were surprised by a few things this week. First, the morning drop-off and check-in has been relatively smooth. The lines to check in students have been more expeditious than we had even hoped, and traffic has been much less of an issue compared to first-week congestion in prior years. We attribute this to parents making the effort to get their children to school earlier than normal. Please keep doing so. It has been very beneficial for the school, and we thank you for making that extra effort. No one likes sitting in long drop-off lines! We did make some minor changes to the drop-off routine. Please see the schematic for details.
We also expected fewer students to return for in-person instruction this week. We had thought we might see about 80% return to school, whereas the number was closer to 92% this week. While we are heartened to see all students back on campus, it did not go unnoticed that quite a few males needed haircuts! We gave grace on that this week but ask parents of our gentlemen to check their sons’ hair length against the regulations in the Parent Student Handbook and, if necessary, get that taken care of this weekend.
In terms of protocols, all students are participating in the health screening as they come onto campus, wearing their masks, and regularly using the sanitization stations for their hands upon entering every classroom. The one challenge – not surprisingly – has been trying to enforce social distancing when students are in the quad. Our students are proof positive that we are social animals, and it is an ongoing task to remind them to not congregate in close physical proximity at break and lunch.
We were also able to celebrate school Mass this week, with four classes attending Mass in the Pavilion on Wednesday. Fr. Damien was the celebrant, and we know he enjoyed being able to be on campus and lead our students through worship. We anticipate that Orange County will be officially categorized as “orange” by the state next Tuesday, which will allow us to have 200 students attend weekly Mass, hopefully starting on September 30.
So, all in all, this was a great week at JSerra. However, “school” doesn’t take place at all without the support and work of our faculty. We’ve probably all read the challenges most school districts and many private schools have had with respect to teacher unions or faculty refusing to return to school. In all candor, we have a spectrum of comfortability among our faculty about returning to school. But at the end of the day, ALL of our faculty “answered the bell” which we believe speaks volumes to the love they feel for our students, to the commitment they have to education, and to a level of professionalism most schools could only hope to have. Make no mistake about it, we are blessed as a school because of our incredible faculty who are dedicated to service. This year, like no other, has presented unique challenges to teachers that has made their job particularly difficult. Monitoring students to ensure they are adhering to COVID protocols, teaching in different modalities to students both in class and on Zoom, adapting to new technology in the classroom, reducing the use of paper, and a litany of other changes are significant departures from what teaching ordinarily constitutes. Combined with the fact many teachers are also parents themselves and have children in unique educational situations and, like everyone in the United States, must contend with the strife that has befallen our country, our teachers are shouldering a tremendous burden. We salute them for the work they do to educate your children and for their dedication to the mission of our school.
As we have stated from the outset, we understand some parents will want to their children to continue with distance learning perhaps as long as to the end of the semester. We remain respectful of that request but do want to make the following points. First, distance learning is completely acceptable for health reasons or, in the case of some of our international students, contending with travel issues. However, distance learning should not be used for convenience. Students should not use distance learning because they got out of bed late, don’t want to take a quiz or test in person, or just don’t want to go to school. If a student has been coming to school and suddenly decides to stay home on the day of the test, it would be fair for his or her teacher to assume the student’s motivations were not rooted in virtue. In other words, the purpose of distance learning is to address a genuine concern some parents may have, not to be a convenience for students.
We have been blessed this week to welcome back ALL LIONS ALL DAY. One of the stated goals we have for all of our students as they graduate from JSerra is to “model a spirit of joy and gratitude.” We have certainly experienced that first-hand this week. We again thank you for your patience and support as we have navigated our way down this ever-changing path. May God continue to bestow His abundant blessings upon you, your families, our JSerra community, and our nation.
"The human heart plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps."
Dear JSerra Community,
In lieu of the regular video updates I have been recently sending, I want to take a moment and turn to the written word to communicate with you the steps JSerra has already taken and those we are contemplating in light of the current COVID-19 crisis. The bullets and questions posed below are not meant to be exhaustive nor serve as a simple checklist but rather provide you with a broad sense of our planning efforts.
To say that the past many weeks have brought about rapid change amidst ever-shifting tides of uncertainty would be an understatement. When we sent students home at the end of the school day on an ironic Friday the 13th in March, none of us ever anticipated that being our last time together on campus for the remainder of the school year.
In the ensuing days, our students have experienced what has certainly been the most historically significant event in their young lives. Our faculty have again become students, learning how to ply their professional craft in an all-together different environment. Our parents have faced formidable challenges — as much in their professional spheres as in re-imagining and re-shaping the daily rhythms of family life.
To each and every one of you that forms part of our JSerra family, I thank you. These have been challenging times. From the corners of my own home, I've had the opportunity to virtually witness the persevering, can-do spirit of our community — parents organizing drive-by visits of coaches or delivering signs to the homes of our graduating seniors, students rallying support for their neighbors and friends, and teachers extending themselves more than ever for the benefit of their colleagues and our young men and women.
Now is the time for us to look forward. Let me begin with what I intend to be a statement that brings hope and comfort. Absent a specific prohibition from the government, our goal is to begin the school year on August 10, 2020 as originally scheduled with in-person classes. In order to make this a reality, our Leadership Team has been collaborating with several committees of our Board of Directors to take proactive steps to ensure, first and foremost, the health and well-being of our students and staff come this fall.
Facilities Committee. This group is investigating changes to our infrastructure and the acquisition of necessary supplies and equipment. Examples of current considerations are:
- Method of food delivery in our Bistro
- Layout of eating area for our students and faculty
- Personal protective equipment for students, staff, and visitors
- Additional safety measures related to extracurricular events
Risk Management Committee. This group is crafting policies and procedures related to questions such as:
- How might we need to adjust our large gatherings that happen regularly within our community such as all-school Mass, athletic events, retreats, and arts performances?
- What will the school do if a student or staff member comes to campus with COVID-related symptoms?
- How will the school respond if a student or staff member (or someone in their immediate family) tests positive for the virus?
Finance Committee. We are grateful to be blessed with strong enrollment and sound fiscal management. These positive markers notwithstanding, there are a host of financial implications the school is contemplating. A number of steps such as the following have already been taken to give the school maximum flexibility in dealing with future unknowns:
- Salary increases for all staff have been suspended for the upcoming school year.
- Curbs have been placed on all spending for the remainder of this fiscal year.
- All non-essential campus construction projects are being postponed.
- Several non-faculty staff positions have been consolidated.
- All travel related to professional development has been suspended.
In addition to the above, we have launched our Family First Fund asking those who are able to invest in the future of current Lions whose JSerra education is in jeopardy due to COVID-related financial hardship. If you are in a position to help these families, please prayerfully consider a gift.
We are confident that we will be able to creatively solve the challenges posed to our educational setting in a data-driven manner that prioritizes the safety of every member of our JSerra community. What is more, JSerra benefits from being an independent Catholic school, providing us with the ability to be nimble, timely, innovative, and autonomous in our decision-making.
So, let us move forward — "always forward" in the words of our patron, St. Junipero Serra — confident in God's grace and mercy. He never abandons us. Even amidst suffering, perhaps most especially in our suffering, He is asking us to trust Him. Everything, through the perspective of God's providence, is for the greater good. Since the days our doors opened in 2003, JSerra has been defined by a can-do, entrepreneurial spirit. It is this charism and God's hand which will bring us through this together.
As we continue to make decisions in the coming weeks and months and communicate them to you, be assured that the health and safety of every member of the JSerra community will remain at the forefront of our planning efforts. Our principal, Mr. Stroupe, will soon share with you details regarding the conclusion of this school year (e.g. locker clean out, grading policies, testing dates, etc.). In the meantime, know that you and your loved ones are in my daily thoughts and prayers.
We pray this letter finds you and your family in good health. We also hope this unique Easter season is bringing a sense of hope and rejuvenation amidst the uncertainty the country still faces in its fight against the COVID-19 virus. We are heartened by the fact that Orange County has seen a diminished number of new cases and hospitalizations this past week. Nationwide data suggest our country may be at the apex of a flattened curve.
Despite the positive trends in Orange County, our state, and the nation, we know that the restrictions regarding social distancing will continue for the foreseeable future. We had hoped to resume on-campus instruction in May, but in an effort to support continued virus mitigation efforts, we have made the decision to continue classes in their current online format through the end of the spring semester. As such, JSerra's campus will remain physically closed through May 31.
This letter will detail important decisions we have made as a Leadership Team in light of the continued challenges we face as a school and a society. We ask that all parents read it carefully and share our decisions with your sons and daughters.
As noted above, online instruction will continue through the end of the spring semester. As we have traditionally ended instruction early for seniors, May 15 will be the last day of formal classes for seniors while May 20 will be the last day for all freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. These dates are no different than those previously calendared. One substantial change, however, will be the foregoing of final exams at the end of the semester. (The one exception to this is that students who had been taking an online class through the JSerra online program or through Florida Virtual are required to take their final exams as scheduled. This is a requirement of Florida Virtual.) Thus, May 20 will be the formal conclusion of the academic year. The decision to cancel final exams was made in consultation with the chairs of our academic departments and based on a variety of reasons that made sense for the school. As there will be no final exams, students' grades this semester will be comprised of 50% of the 3rd quarter grade and 50% of the 4th quarter grade. We anticipate mailing home second semester report cards during the last week of May.
As was noted in previous communications, students taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams will take those assessments online from their homes during the weeks of May 11 and May 22. (Because these exams were delayed a week, they do not coincide with the end of formal classes mentioned above.) The schedule for the exact date and time of each exam can be found here. Unlike previous years, we are not requiring all students enrolled in AP classes to take the AP exam. Students have until the day of the exam to decide whether to sit for the test, though we strongly recommend that all students take their respective AP exam. Teachers are providing instruction under the assumption that all will. We fundamentally believe our students will be well-prepared for these tests and may even be advantaged in the new format. If a student decides not to take an AP exam, however, the refund for that test will be processed for families when the College Board sends its final invoice to JSerra in June.
The closure of campus through May means that scheduled senior activities will have to take place at a later date. We wrestled with the possibility of having senior activities occur this summer, but the uncertainty of what continued social distancing will look like compelled us to select the week after Christmas, specifically December 30-31, as the time when we will host the Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement for the Class of 2020 along with other activities. No date is ideal, but we believe the week after Christmas affords us the best opportunity to maximize the participation of seniors who will be home from college. We will be seeking the input of students and our parent graduation committee as we plan the details of these events. That being said, we hold out hope that our graduates can still gather as a class this summer to celebrate with one another before heading off to college. Therefore, we ask that seniors keep their calendars clear from July 31-August 1 in the event we have the ability to hold a social gathering this summer. To be clear, graduation activities will take place during the week after Christmas, but we hope some informal activities can occur on July 31 and/or August 1.
The inability to hold large gatherings in May compels us to officially cancel our inaugural JESPY Awards and Hall of Fame event which had been slated for May 28. We look forward to hosting it in the spring of 2021. In terms of other summer activities, we will conduct two sessions of summer school as originally planned. We are not sure if these will be completely online or if we will be able to host classes on campus. Regardless of the eventual format, if your child was planning to take a class or two for either remediation or advancement, summer school will take place. Registration for summer school will begin next Friday, April 24 through the JSerra website. The uncertainties regarding social distancing and gathering make it difficult to determine now if we will be able to hold summer sports camps, summer youth camps, and Lion Engage (our summer academic camp for middle school students.) We will make a final determination regarding these activities toward the end of May.
Athletic and Senior Graduation Fee Refunds
If your child participated in a spring sport, you will receive an email from our Athletic Department next week explaining the 50% refund for sports fees we will be offering. Similarly, as we will necessarily be attenuating senior graduation activities this year, parents of seniors will also receive an email next week from the school explaining a partial refund of the graduation fee. We appreciate the patience of parents of seniors and spring athletes. We had really been hoping that on-campus school (and athletics) could resume in May. While all students have been impacted by the events related to the fight against COVID-19, spring athletes and especially seniors have had to bear an unfair share of the disappointment that closing the campus has entailed. Along the same lines, we are saddened that our variety of artistic events, such as the Spring Musical and Pops Concert, are also cancelled, and we share in the disappointment of the students who had been eagerly preparing for those events.
A Look Forward
We have been blessed that JSerra has been able to avoid furloughs for its employees, especially given that many schools have had to enact them. We have also been blessed by data which confirm that the vast majority of students are succeeding academically in their online education, which we fully recognize presents a variety of new challenges for students and faculty alike. Enrollment for next year looks to be very healthy. We have had a record number of applications to our school this year and will be welcoming the strongest class in JSerra history (in terms of both number of students and average HSPT score) to campus in the fall. We are unaware of anyone in our school community becoming seriously ill or dying from the COVID-19 virus. The most recent data in California and Orange County gives us confidence we are winning the fight against the virus and provides us positive signs that normalcy will be returning. Thus, amid the disappointment and challenges we currently endure as a school community, we have cause for hope and reason for prayers of thanksgiving.
There's an adage that says, "You don't know what you've got until it's gone." The number of students, faculty, and staff who have communicated with us just how much they yearn for nothing more than a return to campus is both heartening and heartbreaking. We certainly miss the rhythms of daily school life — hearing students chatting and laughing at break and lunch, cheering for our sports teams as they compete on the south campus, watching our teachers in action as they introduce a new concept, or praying together as a school during our weekly Mass. (As a brief aside, we will continue to make available to families both Wednesday and Sunday Masses with Fr. Damien and our Dominican sisters on YouTube through the end of the school year.)
Indeed, this has been our most challenging time as educators. Yet, we know this too shall pass. As we await a return to normalcy while growing in appreciation for what normal both was and again will be, you can be assured of our prayers for each one of you as members of Lion Nation. And please continue to pray that God grants us the wisdom to lead JSerra during these unprecedented times.
Dear Parents and Students,
If you saw Mr. Meyer's video address today, you should be aware that the JSerra campus will be closed for a two week period through March 30. Please know that parents and students will not have access to the campus during that time. As was stated last week, normal classes can hopefully resume on April 20.
On Wednesday [March 18] of this week we will begin online instruction at JSerra for all courses. The purpose of this letter is to review what that will look like, explain a few policies students should know, provide some tips for effective learning, and answer, to the extent possible, a few questions about online learning and the future JSerra events. The two main points we have made clear with our faculty and staff are: learning will continue and we will get through this as a school and as a nation. The faculty are looking at this new form of teaching as embarking on a journey, one that has the same end in mind but through different means.
Teaching in an Online Format
Teachers have been tasked to rely heavily on Schoology as a vehicle for delivering content and lessons to their students. Students should every day log onto their Schoology account as well as their JSerra email account to get messages from their teachers regarding assignments for their courses. We have asked teachers to send out a weekly schedule of assignments at the beginning of each week that describes assignments for the week. Importantly, there will a lot of assignments that students can do on their own time and schedule. Thus, learning will be asynchronous meaning students will largely go at their own pace as long as the assignments for the week are completed by the end of the day each Friday. However, there may be an occasion when a teacher needs synchronous learning (meaning all students need to be online at the same day and time to complete an assignment). For example, if a teacher is giving a test or quiz to her 3rd period class, she would tell the students ahead of time to plan to log into her class at that time in order to take the test or quiz because it would be administered only during that particular timeframe.
More generally, students (and parents) should know that we do not expect that students should be in front of a computer doing schoolwork every day from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. That would be unhealthy and the research on effective learning for adolescents in an online setting suggests it is unsuccessful. Accordingly, you will see that a lot of the assignments that the teachers give require the students to work with their textbooks or other print material, use paper and pen, involve in physical activity, etc. So, while online access is important, of course, for online education, a lot of the learning will not take place "online," if that makes sense! Students can expect homework in their classes, but we are trying to make it reasonable. I suspect the vast majority of students if they are organized in their work, and work in a distraction-free environment, can have all of their work completed by 4:00 p.m.each day.
In terms of student expectations and behavior, some basic rules apply. While we are not in school dress code the next few weeks, students in online forums that require them to interact with video chats online should dress modestly. Similarly, in engaging in online forums and chats, students should avoid language/actions that might get them in trouble at school. We are asking you students to treat this as something professional. When you go to college and certainly when you enter the workforce, you will engage in online conferences, webinars, Skype sessions, and a number of other online interactions where your appearance, your choice of words, and your work will be judged by its level of professionalism. These next few weeks will be a good opportunity to prepare for these sorts of interactions in the future.
Also, let's be honest, it is easier to cheat online. We hope that all students can demonstrate their character, to God and to themselves, by producing their own work. Some teachers who will be giving online tests and quizzes will ask students to complete a form which states that they will not cheat in completing that exam or quiz. We ask that you demonstrate integrate in completing that form and doing your own work.
Online Learning Tips
Students will be most successful in an online setting if they can do the following:
- Create a calendar of assignments and create a plan to complete them. Being organized is super important in online learning. As noted above, if you are organized and ready to work each day, you should have little trouble having your online learning completed by 4:00 p.m. each day. Creating a daily "to do" list is a great idea.
- Communicate with your teacher. If you have questions, email your teacher through Schoology or the teacher's JSerra email address.
- Familiarize yourself with new learning tools. Many teachers will be using the "Conference" program in Schoology to have live class discussions or post recorded class meetings. Getting familiar with Conferences and the other programs that your teachers will use will obviously be to your advantage. Teachers' Schoology pages should have a tutorial which explains how students how to use Conferences. Google Chrome is the best browser for Schoology.
- If you need to be "present" for a class for an online test or quiz that starts at a particular time, please make sure to log on well ahead of time so that you are able to start the activity or test or quiz on time.
- Reduce/eliminate distractions while doing online work. Don't assume you can watch TV, be on Instagram, listen to music, and still be successful learning online. You should work from a quiet place in your home where you can full attention to your academic tasks. Also, the place you work should be the same one each day. Research shows working in the same, consistent space is more effective than changing work space day by day.
- Make sure to get daily exercise and good sleep. Teenagers need to move around during the day. We are dealing with a stressful situation right now as a country. A good way to deal with stress is to get moving and get proper sleep. It will in turn improve your academic performance.
- Socialize! Your ability to interact in-person with your classmates and friends might be limited for a while, but you can still text, call, and use social media. Some of your online class activities may involve responding to classmates through online blogs and other form of communications. This might serve as a good opportunity to communicate with classmates who you don't know too well. We are social beings and need human interaction.
- Reward yourself when you accomplish your educational goals for the week. Incentivizing yourself with something positive is good motivation.
While much of the learning will be done at the student's pace (asynchronous), if there are any synchronous class meetings, they will be done according to the following schedule for our online classes:
You will notice that we have intentionally left a gap in the schedule for lunch each day from 12:00-1:00 p.m. daily.
Again, you do not have to log on to each individual class each day. But there may be times when a particular class will have on online meeting at a designated time. Be on the lookout for emails from your teachers about those particular times when you do need to be logged on to a particular program for a particular class.
While we are glad that education will continue at JSerra and we have a motivated faculty to shepherd you through that process, it is frustrating that we don't have a lot answers to questions. Will online school continue after April 20? Will AP exams be cancelled or postponed? Can seniors still do their service hours? Will we still have graduation? Will spring sports resume? What are we doing about placement exams for next year's AP and honors classes? There are many others that we are just going to have to work through as events play out. I know we all prefer greater certainty, and we will provide those answers in time. We just don't know them now.
We do know that our teachers are going to be reasonable in their academic expectations, teaching and learning will still occur, technical glitches will occasionally occur, and most importantly, we will get through this. I suspect some of this new format for learning will be fun and will allow you to be creative in ways that you might not get to do in school. Let's embrace this form of learning and be confident we will be successful in it.
Mr. Eric Stroupe
In light of the declaration of a National Emergency by the President today and the fact that all Orange County Diocesan schools will close next week, we have decided to end on-campus instruction effective today. Next Monday and Tuesday will be used as staff in-service days, and, accordingly, online instruction will begin for all students on Wednesday, March 18. First period that day will begin at 8:00 a.m. (More information about the specifics of online instruction will be forthcoming). As was stated yesterday, we plan to resume on-campus instruction on April 20.
Additionally, after consulting with our fellow Trinity League schools, we will be suspending all athletic activities for a period of at least two weeks. Thus, there will be no practices or games as of today. On that note, all extracurricular activities will be suspended effective today.
This decision is based on the evolving situation, and is one that we do not make lightly. Please note, again, we have no evidence of any student or staff member having contracted COVID-19, or even being suspected of having COVID-19. We are being precautionary and are joining in the national effort to limit social congregating in the effort to mitigate the spread of the virus.
I am certain there will be more questions that arise. We are developing a COVID-19 resource page for our website and there will be additional information communicated via email. We did make this announcement on the PA today so students should be aware that they will need to take their school materials home with them. For any student who is absent today, the campus will be open on Monday to retrieve any learning materials.
We appreciate your continued prayers for our country, state, and JSerra school community.
The JSerra Administration