School campuses in Washington state will remain closed through June, and districts have been ordered to offer some sort of instruction to the state’s more than 1,000,000 public school students.
However, thousands of Catholic students have been learning from home the whole time, including Kindergarten through 8th-grade students at St. George in South Seattle; a parish school with a student body that is 85% minority and 30% on free or reduced lunch assistance programs.
On March 11th, the day Governor Jay Inslee ordered all schools statewide to close, the staff at St. George put into place its plan for online classes, according to Principal Monica Wingard, who also heads-up the school at nearby St. Edward – which is also offering online education to all students.
Wingard said her staff members met after Inslee’s announcement and told students “to go home and set up their ‘offices’ and then we were online Monday with assignments.” Classes had already been canceled for that Friday because of a previously-scheduled in-service day.
David Watson is the Assistant Principal at St George and the English teacher for 6th, 7th and 8th-grade students at St George. While he says it’s been very difficult not to see their faces in person while the physical building is shut-down, Watson meets with his students on Zoom and provides instruction and assignments on Google Classroom.
“They are the future leaders of tomorrow. And even though right now we’re dealing with some tough times, strange times for all of us, it’s just very important that we try to keep some sort of normalcy in their lives,” Watson told KIRO 7. “That normalcy is through education.”
Wingard described the first week of online instruction as “crazy.”
“There were lots of emails, lots of frustration as we were trying to work out the kinks but we are now on week four and we haven’t missed a day,” she said.
According to Wingard, the two parish schools where she works as principal are in South Seattle neighborhoods with few financial resources. “We have a lot of tuition assistance.”
However, thanks to donors and the Fulcrum Foundation -- which helps fund Catholic education statewide -- all of her students have the technological resources they need to continue their educations online while schools are shut down to prevent the spread of COVID 19.
Wingard explained that any child from South Seattle is welcome at her schools; “there’s a misnomer about what Catholic schools are. Catholic schools are open to everyone.”
And before Watson began working in Catholic education, he said he believed “the stereotype that Catholic schools are only for rich students. Definitely not true.”
Wingard was also quick to point out that remote learning isn’t just happening at St. George and St. Edward. “I believe we have 73 Catholic schools in the state and every one of them is having online, remote distance learning. It may look different in each community dependent on the resources that their families have, but definitely every school has remote learning. We’re in this together and we’re going to get through it together and we’re going to come out stronger.”
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