In the weeks before the reopening of archdiocesan schools, officials have developed a program to train administrators, teachers and support staff with the Covid-19 precaution knowledge they will need to help provide and maintain safe and secure academic environments for students, families and employees.
Officials said they have several professional development training modules planned for late August and early September. The September school openings will be different this year than at any time in the past, administrators noted.
time in the “We want to make sure that our faculties and our school personnel are completely trained and prepared to welcome back our children in September,” Michael Deegan, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, told Catholic New York last week.
“Because our faculties are renowned for their abilities to work with our children, we need to give them the tools. We have improved the synchronized remote learning package that we began in the spring. It certainly will be much better than it had been when we initially did it.”
The five professional development training modules for onsite schooling will be:
Covid-19 Awareness Training: Staffers from ArchCare will help provide details in coronavirus restrictions, precautions and safety, based on CDC guidelines.
Enhanced Teacher Technology Training: To include In-Class Technology usage, and how to improve synchronized home-based learning. Led by professional development staff of the archdiocese. TEQ.com will also be used, guiding teachers on equipment and device usage, such as smartboards. Each classroom will be equipped with a new interactive touch-panel smartboard, so students learning from home can follow along with lessons.
Mental Health and Social Emotional Learning: Training educators to talk with students about coping with stress related to the pandemic’s impact; guiding students in coping and in helping others to cope. Referrals for extra counseling to be provided for students who seek it, including those who may have lost a loved one to the coronavirus, and those whose parents are first responders. Instructors will use, in part, Kognito, an online digital simulation where teachers will use evidence-based models and techniques to practice conversations they might have with students.
Principals lead operational training based on each specific school’s reopening plan: This will be done based on guidance published on catholicschoolsny.org. Teachers will meet with the principals to ensure they have a good understanding of changes they will see in the school buildings, such as safety signs related to temperature taking of students, social distancing, proper wearing of masks and handwashing.
Maintenance, custodial and janitorial training for cleaning, sanitizing the school buildings: It will include a training video that features up to date practices in disinfecting and sanitizing properties, as well as other safety procedures specific to cleansing amid Covid-19. Cleaning will be done before each school day, during school hours and after each school day, based on CDC and New York State Health Department guidelines.
Officials said the training instructors will be a combination of archdiocesan staffers and contracted experts. They will be using various Catholic and secular instructional tools, such as a Catholic Faith Network video on schools reopening amid Covid-19, and related guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
All the coronavirus training modules will be incorporated into the regular professional development training (academic and spiritual) that administrators and faculty undergo before the start of each school year. This year, there will be a combination of virtual and in-person training because of the pandemic. In-person training will be done at the respective schools.
Deegan also noted, “We want to make sure every teacher and staff member has a full and rich understanding of the pandemic, of the coronavirus…We are going to go to the experts, to ArchCare epidemiologists and health care professionals, who will be preparing a presentation for our faculties and staffs so that they know the science, so they can understand it, live with it and explain it to the school communities.”
He said the nuts and bolts of operations will be done by each principal, that one of the training days will be devoted to allowing the principals, based on their reopening plan, to actually role play it, to go through it. “Logistical, operational and mechanical components are going to be done by the principals,” Deegan said. Each morning outside each school building, he said, faculty will line up students and monitor safety compliance.
The safety program coordinator is Michael Coppotelli, archdiocesan associate superintendent of schools for public policy and student services, who told CNY that families can be assured that their children will be provided with a welcoming, safe environment “where students will be prepared to learn and succeed, that the principals and teachers care for them very much, and that we are thrilled to have them back with us in our buildings...Most importantly, Jesus Christ is the teacher ever present.
“There is a committee of the Health and Safety Task Force that is focusing on reviewing each of these (instructional) areas,” Coppotelli said.
“This committee was developed in March. They are members of the Health and Safety Task Force of the (archdiocesan) Superintendent of Schools Office. The health and safety of our students and teachers is first and foremost our top priority. This training provides them the tools and strategies to ensure their health and safety, as well as set them up for a successful school year.”
Among the training program instructors is Dr. Walid Michelen, chief medical officer and senior vice president for clinical planning and innovation at ArchCare.
In an emailed statement, Dr. Michelen said, “ArchCare is grateful for the opportunity to provide the clinical guidance as well as making available its resources, educational materials and staff so that the archdiocese can provide education in as safe and healthy an environment as possible.”