(Pictured: Mason and Tucker McIntyre learning from home.)
“I am extremely proud of our administrators, teachers, students and parents,” said Butte Central Catholic School’s President Don Peoples Jr. after being asked about BC’s response to the statewide closure of schools in March due to Covid-19. “Our teachers went to work and delivered an outstanding distance learning program,” he said. “Our students continued to learn and progress both academically and spiritually.”
When Governor Bullock announced the suspension of classes, the Butte Central staff took a week to finalize strategies for an online distance-based learning program. The school had already initiated plans to go to a remote learning format as news of the pandemic had spread across the nation in February.
“Our teachers were amazing,” said Peoples. “They stepped up and provided students with meaningful learning experiences.”
Butte Central’s delivery of online-learning activities benefited greatly from the support of Butte Central graduate Roy Simperman from the class of 1958. Thanks to Mr. Simperman, the school has undergone a major technology upgrade in recent years. Both the elementary and high school have added hundreds of iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, personal computers, and an abundance of educational-based software. Those technology resources allowed each student in kindergarten through high school to have a computer at home for their studies.
In the delivery of lessons, teachers used a variety of online platforms including Google Classroom, Zoom, Google Hangouts, and ClassDojo. Daily check-ins with teachers occurred along with video-based conferences with individual students and entire classes. BC teachers reached out to students and ensured that lessons were being completed.
Central Elementary Principal Paul Richardson acknowledged the importance of daily communication. “Our teachers did a great job of reaching out to our students and keeping that face-to-face connection,” said Richardson.
At the high school level, students were already very comfortable with Google Classroom, a web based educational software. Most BC teachers use the program for distributing assignments, class communication, and student collaboration. BC Principal J.P. Williams commented that the online experience will have future benefits to college-bound students. “It was a great opportunity for our students to prepare for college,” he added. “Students have to be self-motivated and willing to accept responsibility for their own learning.”
In addition to the academic benefits of the program, students were offered opportunities for faith formation and prayer. Students gathered online for prayer each day, a weekly virtual Mass was held, and Stations of the Cross were conducted on Good Friday by BC Chaplain Father Kirby Longo.
With the 2020-2021 school year slated to start on August 24th, Butte Central teachers are already working on new ideas for instruction and learning. Under the direction of the Montana Catholic Schools Organization the entire BC faculty participated in a week-long professional development conference in early June. Teachers learned strategies to improve online-learning, implement project-based activities, and to assess students’ learning. Additional professional development activities are planned in July and August to further prepare teachers.
“We don’t know what the upcoming school year will have in store for us,” said Peoples “We are confident that we will be able to provide students with the best education possible.”
The Montana Catholic Schools Organization has proactively
developed a plan for the upcoming school year. The plan is designed to achieve as
much face-to-face learning as possible. In addition, the plan calls for
enhanced health screening, social distancing, and cleaning protocols. “Our
schools are about faith and community and being together is essential to who we
are,” reflected Peoples. “We firmly believe that Butte Central Catholic Schools
will be ready in August.”