I know that each day my kids are being watched over by teachers and an administration who have a true calling in what they do. In most of my conversations with teachers, I walk away amazed at how faith-filled they are and how much they are genuinely committed to maintaining the culture of St. James.
By Amy Hunter, SJA parent
Before Spring Break even hit, I had a feeling my kids would not be going back to school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We spent Spring Break together as a family, and this Mom was happy to have all my kids home under one roof and a chance for some quality family time with no other extra-curricular activities on the calendar. With Spring Break winding down, it became clear that students would not be returning to school any time soon. As a Mom that likes structure and a daily schedule, I was anxiously waiting to see what school would be like as we transitioned to distance learning.
My oldest is a freshman in college, so I knew his schedule would depend on what each professor decided to do for their class. I was more concerned with what school would be like for my girls, a sophomore at St. James, and my 8th grader in public school. I knew the administrations at both schools were working diligently to formulate a good plan to move us forward, and through the end of the school year. St. James first came out with a Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule, with Tuesday and Thursdays off. Honestly, when I first heard this schedule, I thought that it was kind of a long time for the kids to be “in school” on a laptop. The next day the Kansas Governor sent out guidelines for screen time for kids while distance learning. Then St. James revised their plan to a half-day of school each day of the week. My 8th grader’s public school went with an all-day school plan going Monday through Thursday with Friday off.
Now that we are a month into the distance learning, I have to say after dealing with two different schools’ schedules, St. James Academy Hit It Out of the Park with their schedule! My daughter knows she has to be online (and in her school uniform shirt) by 8:30 am every day. She may not have a Zoom meeting for her entire class period, but all the teachers spend quality time online with the kids checking in to make sure they are in class, teaching, then addressing any questions.
St. James even found a way to have House time during all of this! The other day, my daughter was walking around our home with her laptop and talking – I asked her what she was doing, and she was having a House scavenger hunt and needed a family picture to show everyone.
The other day, several of us had Zoom meetings at the same time, so our Wi-Fi maxed out. My daughter took the brunt of it, as she couldn’t log into her 6th-hour class. I told her once my meeting was over, I’d try to fix the problem. Before the Wi-Fi was fixed, I had an email from the St. James attendance office letting me know that she was marked absent from that class and if everything was ok. This is just a small glimpse of how St. James is keeping things “normal” during all of this.
My daughter enjoys the energy her Honors Geometry teacher brings to the Zoom meetings, especially since it is her first class in the morning. She gives the right amount of homework and makes it known to the kids that she is there to help them – sometimes even pleading with the kids for just one student to stay after and ask her questions.?
Compare this to the public-school schedule: my 8th grader may have a Zoom meeting at 10 am and then nothing until 1 pm. The schedule is never the same each day, so it is challenging to have a set schedule and keep her on track. Even though I get notifications from Canvas, I still never really know when she has class and when she does not. Her homework is extremely light, and that really worries me that she will be starting high school next year and won’t be prepared, considering the lack of “real school” for over 5 months. We try to compensate with reading, outdoor time, piano, and exercise, but again with the sporadic schedule, it makes a consistent daily schedule difficult. I was talking about this with a friend as their kids attend public school as well in another metro district and asked if they were worried about the lack of homework. Their kids have always excelled in school, and they are still doing some work as well, but like my 8th grader, it is nothing compared to what St. James is doing. His response was, “Well, you pay for her school, so they probably have to do more!”
Knowing the culture of St. James from having had another child already graduate from there, I don’t really think the reason we have more structure and regular school days is because we are “paying for this.” This is just a small part of what St. James is all about. Yes, we are paying tuition, but what our children receive can’t even be measured in tuition dollars. I know that each day my kids are being watched over by teachers and an administration who have a true calling in what they do. In most of my conversations with teachers, I walk away amazed at how faith-filled they are and how much they are genuinely committed to maintaining the culture of St. James. People often ask me what makes St. James so special, and it’s not something you can really put into words. I usually just tell them; you have to experience it yourself. Whenever I walk into the school, there is always a sense of peace and calm that comes over me that I can’t really explain. I know this is what my daughter misses most right now.
We all are looking forward to the day when we can return to the campus. Until then, I can’t begin to say how much I appreciate the structure and regular classwork St. James is providing my daughter. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1Thessalonians 5:16-18