By Jenelyn Russo     5/20/2020

As the nation continues to work through the challenges surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, Orange County Catholic schools continue to deliver quality instruction through distance-learning platforms.  

After moving swiftly to distance learning back on March 18, each school site is monitoring students’ progress and obtaining feedback from families in an effort to refine program features.  

“Parent satisfaction is one of the barometers we use to measure the success of the distance learning program,” says Diocese of Orange Assistant Superintendent Dr. Denise Valadez. “We’re relying on parental support now more than ever.” 

A parent survey that went out to families at elementary school sites within the first two weeks of program implementation generated a specific request – more a personal connection between students and teachers. In response, teachers have increased their use of live video communication platforms, such as Zoom and Google Meet, not only for curriculum instruction, but also for virtual community-building activities. 

“We’re really concerned about the social and emotional wellbeing of our students,” says Valadez. “So we wanted to put some intentional focus on that. We wanted our students to be able to see our teachers, and vice versa.” 

A second and more recent parent survey with approximately 2,000 responses revealed that more than 75 percent of parents rated the distance learning program at their child’s school with a mark of either 4 or 5, with 5 being “excellent.” 

“For the most part, our parents are very pleased with the program and how quickly our teachers were able to pivot to get this off the ground,” says Valadez. 

Even with the program’s positive feedback, Valadez acknowledges that distance learning is not the same as traditional in-class instruction, and as such, there are likely to be some learning gaps for students as they continue to learn from home. 

On April 28, 2020, the Los Angeles Times reported that Gov. Gavin Newsom is considering a possible early start to the next academic school year for California public schools – in late July or early August – as a way of addressing learning losses due to school closures. But Valadez states that no such measures will be needed for Orange County Catholic schools, and plans are already in place to address any learning gaps that may surface.  

“In order to help mitigate that our teachers are working over the next several weeks…to make sure that they hit those essential skills (within the standards) that are needed for next year,” says Valadez. 

Valadez also says that teachers will be more thoughtful and specific in the narrative comments they put in the third trimester report cards to aid those parents who plan to work with their children over the summer. 

Additionally, teachers at school sites will be meeting with the next grade level to convey the areas they focused on during distance learning, as well as potential areas of growth that may need more attention. Since “summer slide” is already a scenario schools deal with annually, Valadez is confident that with these conversations, both teachers and students will be adequately prepared for the fall. 

“There is that collaboration between grade levels so that everyone is aware of where the kids are going forward,” says Valadez. 

The schools will maintain current grading systems for core classes and will continue distance-learning delivery through the remainder of the school year. Communication between schools and families will remain a priority as both work together to set students up for success. 

“Our teachers have…taken this opportunity to show their strengths and to be intentional about the program that they’re offering our kids,” says Valadez. “They are providing our students with a lot of feedback so they will be prepared for success for next year.”