Mar 26, 2020

Click here for an introductory video with Mr. Kiser.

Dear St. Joseph’s Catholic School Community,

Greetings to each of you during these unusual and difficult days. I want to thank everyone for your cooperation and flexibility as we transitioned to online learning. I have been very pleased with how the teachers, students, and parents, led by the administrative team, have handled all of this. Our number one priority has been and continues to be to provide our students with the best educational experience possible given the circumstances. I want to assure you that the leadership team and the teachers are working extremely hard behind the scenes every day to help ensure that this is the case. Mrs. Jaraczewski and Dr. Jones are in constant communication with the teachers, and I with the two of them, to ensure that the students’ needs are met and to gather feedback to determine what adjustments might need to be made along the way. One adjustment that we are making going forward is to expand each virtual class period by 10 minutes starting next Monday, March 30. The updated bell schedule is attached to this email.

Given Governor McMaster’s announcement on Monday that all schools are to remain closed through the end of April, it looks as if online learning is going to be the new normal at St. Joseph’s until May 1. If the situation improves and we are able to go back to school sooner, we will certainly do that, but for now, teachers and students should plan to continue with online classes through the end of April. When we are able to return to school, I can assure you that St. Joseph’s will be one of the cleanest schools in the Upstate. The school’s facility staff has used this time to systematically sanitize every surface in every room of the school building, a process that will have taken over two weeks when completed.

During the time of the extended shutdown, unfortunately, all school activities will be either postponed, canceled, or modified. The school leadership team met virtually yesterday morning to make decisions about the events remaining on the school calendar. These decisions were reviewed by the school’s trustees during their virtual meeting this morning. Before going into the details, let me say that we are trying to preserve or modify what we can, especially for the Class of 2020, whose senior year has been turned upside down by and will forever be associated with the COVID-19 virus.

The pandemic, of course, is a very serious situation and the health of our students and families is of paramount importance, and we are not going to do anything that might risk that. Moreover, we want to do everything in our power (as little as that might be) to help smooth out the curve of those stricken by this virus so that our hospitals and medical facilities are able to treat those who do get sick. Here I want to say a quick word of thanks to all of you parents who are doctors or work in the medical profession. Thank you for risking your own health and that of your family to care for the sick. It’s a heroic work you are doing. Finally, on this point, I want to ask parents to please encourage your teenagers to practice social distancing by not gathering at one another’s homes during these days when we have been asked to shelter in place with our families. God willing this will pass soon. We can help that by adhering to the guidelines of our governor and the medical professionals advising him.

Now to the events on the school calendar. I think the clearest way for me to communicate this is to list the events and give you a brief update on what has been decided at this point. We will, of course, update these as the situation becomes more clear in the days ahead.

The Gala (April 24): We are moving to an online event that will include both silent and live auctions and the critical Fund the Need tuition assistance portion of the night. Our creative and generous gala committee is already hard at work to plan an event that will hopefully generate the dollars needed for our tuition assistance fund, which is now more important than ever. So, please look for information in the coming days about how this is going to work and how you can support this effort.

The Prom (April 25): Unfortunately, the prom has been postponed for the time being. The prom committee will gather virtually in the coming days to look for viable alternatives. It’s a creative and fun group of students and parents, so I’m confident that they will come up with an event that everyone will enjoy when the time is appropriate for a gathering of this size.

NHS and Honor Society Inductions (April 29): These inductions have been postponed. Look for rescheduling information in the weeks to come.

High School Musical (April 3-5): This event has been postponed for the time being. The Fine Arts Department is exploring options for how the students might be able to perform some or all of the musical. Look for more information in the weeks ahead.

St. Joseph the Worker Day (May 1): Because May 1 is potentially the first day back to school, we have decided to cancel this all-school community workday for this year.

AP Exams (May 4-15): Per the AP Board, these exams will be conducted online in a modified, shortened format. More information will be passed on to AP students as we receive it.

Jubilate Knight (May 9): The committee is looking at ways the event can be modified. We will update you when we know how we are going to proceed.

Spring Fine Arts Concerts (May 12-14): These will not take place according to the original schedule. We are looking at the feasibility of combining the three events into one evening.

Year-End Events: Academic Awards, Eighth Grade Convocation, Red Door Ceremony, Senior Send-Off, Team Competition Day, Jr/Sr Luncheons, Baccalaureate Mass, Graduation: While we are still hopeful that these events will happen as planned, it is too early to know if modifications will need to be made. We will, of course, keep you informed of any changes.

Athletics: The SCHSL has canceled all athletic competitions, practices, and workouts through the end of April and will evaluate what will happen with the remainder of the spring sports’ schedule at its April 2 virtual meeting. Coach Nash will be in touch with coaches, players, and parents as more information becomes available.

I apologize for the long letter and for the uncertainty still surrounding some of these events, but we wanted to make sure you at least knew what our current thinking is on all of these things. If we can proceed as normal, we will certainly do so. We will continue to follow what reality indicates and communicate with you accordingly.

As I mentioned above, our leadership team met yesterday, March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, which is the day the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the fact that God became man through the conception of Jesus in the womb of the Blessed Virgin. This was a reminder for us that we don’t have to face these or any circumstances alone nor with our own strength only. God is present in our world and in our school community. We can place our trust in Him with the assurance that He cares for us. I hope that you will use this time, when normal day-to-day life has ceased, to grow in greater certainty as a family that God is with you and will meet all of your needs.

To that end, I have asked Father Duncan and Mr. Lewis to look for ways to stay in touch virtually to remind us all that Christ comes to us through his body, the Church. This is an ever-present reality when school is in session when we gather for Mass, campus ministry, and other school events. The posters and crucifixes on classroom walls and in our hallways are a daily visual reminder of Christ’s merciful presence among us. We need to figure out creative ways that we can see and connect with one another until we can gather again in person. One opportunity is to join Mr. Lewis and St. Joseph’s students in praying the Angelus each weekday at 11:55 AM. Mr. Lewis will send a link via email. Parents are welcome to join. Also, high school campus ministry has begun meeting online Wednesday evenings at 7:30 PM. Contact Mr. Lewis for more information.

In Christ’s peace and love,

Keith F. Kiser

Click here for updated instructional schedule.

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