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Pandemic at St. Joseph Mission School

June 09, 2021

St. Joseph Mission School

On March 12, 2020 we were hearing news that the pandemic was spreading fast and furious throughout the world. That morning we had informed a parish in Wichita, Kansas that they would not be able to bring their Catholic Youth Organization to do mission work since it looked like we might not have school the following week. Then it happened Fr. Isaac Ogba our Superintendent for the Diocese of Gallup, on March 13th, said that we would be following the orders of New Mexico to close our school for the next three weeks. Little did we know that we would be closed for the whole year. In the meantime teachers and staff at St. Joseph Mission School went into triage mode. We followed the wise words of St. Francis of Assisi who stated, “do what is necessary, then do what is possible, then you will find that you are doing the impossible”.

In a quick meeting during lunch, teachers decided that we would send students with learning materials, such as text books with workbooks to help keep students engaged in their learning. When students left the school we didn’t get to say goodbye because many of us were hoping to be back in school within a month. School sweaters were left on classroom chairs, art work depicting lent were left on classroom walls, an eeriness pervaded the school halls as teachers asked what we were going to do next. We made the decision to take a long spring break which lasted into the end of the school year. During this period teachers just made phone calls with their students to make sure they were doing well in the midst of the pandemic news which filled their hearts with anxiety. As a school family we all agreed that it was important to meet the emotional and psychological needs of our families first. Sometimes this was as small as writing a note to our students and sending it out in our school packets or having periodic zoom meetings with our families.

It was a big learning curve for all of us to discovered that the pandemic would last into the summer of 2021. With that in mind, we worked with our Title I program to get our school to be more technological and begin our online courses for the new school year. Teachers needed to get updated laptops, and students needed their own tablets with hotspots to connect with their teachers. More importantly we needed to be trained in Google Education as a platform to do online learning. In June teachers came to tackle a new challenge of working together to keep our children from regressing in their subjects.

As a Catholic educational center for our communities of Acoma, Laguna and the surrounding Spanish villages, St. Joseph School welcomed the opportunity to learn new techniques and procedures for online instruction. We all know too well, learning involves mistakes and mistakes can lead to frustration. As one of our teachers stated, “we didn’t sign up for all of this frustration”. We learned a hard lesson to remember how students feel this same frustration in learning. Not only did we learn, but parents learned the hard reality of what it takes to teach their children daily. The pandemic has forced all of us to appreciate the work that is done when teaching our children. Let us keep each other in prayer to do the hard work that is required when making a difference in the lives of our children.