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SCC Serves and Excels In Distance Learning

St. Charles Catholic High School has had one mission both before and during the global COVID-19 pandemic: educating the whole student.

So when school campuses started closing on March 13 in order to initiate social distancing protocols, Dr. Courtney Millet and her staff were committed to seeing that mission continue through prayer, through class instruction, and through community.

SCC was able to quickly shift the student body into an online-learning system in which teachers used Google platforms to continue holding weekly classes for all grade levels and subjects. Since all students at SCC are provided Apple devices through the school, students were already used to digitally receiving instruction and assessments. Underclassmen are provided with iPads, and 11th and 12th grade students use brand new MacBook computers. Teachers and students were ready to begin distance learning in earnest right away.

Dr. Courtney Millet reflected on the mission of SCC's distance learning plans, “Even from a distance, the mission of St. Charles Catholic High School continues! When teaching at a distance, the day looks very different. Instead of face to face class time, our teachers are creating great content and videos, providing amazing live lessons, checking in with students, and providing meaningful feedback. We miss seeing our Comets in our hallways, but are so happy and blessed to be able to stay connected virtually.”

SCC facilitated a training day for teachers with Eduscape, an online learning company that equips educators with knowledge and strategies for online class delivery and student assessments. After this training, teachers were able to reimagine the fourth quarter, prioritizing their curricula and designing engaging lessons and assignments using digital tools. While teachers were considering public health and caring for their families, they were undaunted by the new challenges posed by distance learning.

English Advanced Placement and Honors teacher Melanie Lohfink said of the training, "When so many things were uncertain at the end of March, SCC’s plan for distance learning was clear, direct, and manageable. EduScape’s Marcie Hebert once again provided our teachers with tech tools that we could use effectively and confidently. After that one day of professional development, I had many ideas that I felt I could incorporate into my distance learning classes. Because of this training, I have been able to make a smooth transition from my traditional classroom to the virtual classroom."

The Comets have responded well to the new learning style with student engagement remaining consistently high throughout these weeks of social distancing. Video assignments and digital assessments provide proof of student growth despite the obstacles placed before them.

SCC Junior Blakely Heltz said of her experience, "Distance learning has given us the opportunity to stay connected with our classmates and teachers, which has helped me get through these lonely days of isolation."

Student Body President and SCC Senior Trey Lowry said, "Distance learning allowed our students and faculty to experience maturity, self-discipline, and responsibility in a situation far from the normal learning environment."

Physical science students built self-propelled cars using household items. Theatre students filmed puppet shows and Tony Award acceptance speeches. English students wrote original creative pieces and completed essays throughout all levels, including the Dual Enrollment classes working in conjunction with Southeastern Louisiana University. The Fine Arts Department helped students complete portraits and instruction them on acting techniques.

The Sports Science students created a personalized training plan that included physical and mental wellness paired with exercise and nutrition plans. Math classes zeroed in on practical application of mathematics principals, so students did cooking projects, measured and compared items, and played games that engaged their math skills. The Statistics class studied the "Coronavirus Curve" and researched the chances individuals had at becoming infected based on population and test sensitivity.

Biology teacher Tina Jeandron spoke of some the online tools her students used during her lessons, "The creativity of our students has been awesome. We have tackled projects through video presentations in Flipgrid, and we use Quizlet and Kahoot to become familiar with terminology and reinforce concepts learned. We've also learned more features of the Google platforms we use, like Classroom, Docs, and Slides. Our students have really shown initiative and creativity through the use of new technology, or using tech we were familiar with in a new way. They are quick to provide help for each other if needed as we work through new ways of doing things."

The athletes have been considered too during quarantine. Athletic Director and head football coach Frank Monica took time to call his athletes and check in with them while also encouraging conditioning and activity while at home. Head basketball coach Jeff Montz sent a conditioning schedule and videos to his players, and the Cheerleading and Starstepper Dance Team sponsors will be conducting virtual tryouts so the students don't miss a beat.

Frank Monica explained how he's helped his players maintain a semblance of normalcy, "We've been bringing our football team together at 8:15 in the morning for a virtual meeting on Monday and Wednesday, before their academic classes begin, to work on installation. We meet as a team and then as small groups with their specific coaches. We're trying to make it as much like normal Spring training as possible. They've gotten a workout plan from Coach John Talley, and we're waiting to make some changes after May 15. We're really planning for Fall football."

As the only Catholic high school in the River Parishes, SCC takes pride in providing spiritual formation for its students as much as educational and physical formation. Distance learning was no exception. During these weeks of quarantine, the chaplain of SCC, Fr. David Ducote, said Mass in the new free-standing chapel, and the Comet community was able to participate via live-stream on Facebook.

Comets were also invited to attend a Virtual Lunch & Learn with US Olympian Johnny Quinn who spoke to the students about his own story while giving them tips on how to protect their mindsets during this time of unpredictable change and inevitable disappointment. He spoke about his faith journey, and the students were able to interact with him via Zoom.

Mrs. Christine Creppel, Assistant Principal of Academics at SCC, said of the Lunch and Learn, "It was so important to provide a social-emotional and motivational experience for our students during this time. Johnny's message really hit home with them. He spoke about relying on faith, about practicing self-discipline, and about growing in perseverance. It was exactly what our Comets needed to hear. Learning about how this US Olympian had to overcome obstacles and learn all about bobsledding 72 hours before the Olympic trials helped them to feel inspired to tackle the obstacles of online learning."

"He is very motivating," 8th grader Brady St. Pierre said, "He inspires me to push harder and achieve what I want."

As the Comets look ahead to the end of quarantine, St. Charles Catholic's faculty and staff is looking ahead as well. They continue to attend professional development meetings and departmental planning meetings, growing and adapting to continue serving the students of SCC. The Comets have continued to "fly high and shine bright" through all the challenges placed before them, and it shows in the Comet community.

SCC parent Alan Stauder said of SCC's distance learning program how "relieved, thankful, excited, and honored," he was, and to show his gratitude for the school's "resurrection of education," Mr. Stauder built a Resurrection Cross to mark the Easter holiday and thank Dr. Millet and her team for all they'd done.

St. Charles Catholic continues their distance learning until May 22 when the term will officially end. The Comets may not have had the year they expected, but they can say with honesty that they got a year they'll never forget.