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Creatively Connecting During COVID-19

Written by Jocelyn Smith, Ed.S. | Katy Walter Lichon, Ph.D. on Monday, 01 June 2020.

StAnne Pacelli 13

We all know the importance of maintaining connections and relationships during this time of social distancing, eLearning, and virtual community building.

Cohort 4 participant and current LEI Mentor, Jocelyn Smith, Lower School Principal at St. Anne-Pacelli Catholic School in Columbus, GA, has been working diligently to build community digitally with parents, her school community, faculty, and students, all as she continues to remind her community, “It's a Great Day to Be A Viking!” - even at a distance!

Check out the school’s creative ideas below.

Connecting with Parents

  • StAnne Pacelli Always LearningBranding Our Online Instructional Contingency Plan
    From the very beginning, we called our online instructional contingency plan "Always Learning." It's important to brand your plan and consistently communicate your efforts via all mediums - email, social media, phone calls, etc.

  • Revisioning Back-to-School Night 
    When making the decision to go virtual for the remainder of the year, we held a “virtual parent night.” These nights were similar in feel to back-to-school nights with each teacher hosting a session where expectations of the online platform were shared and there was an opportunity for Q&A. We feel that this set us up for a successful transition to eLearning.

  • Hosting a Wine/Whine Session 
    We hosted a lively virtual happy hour for parents where everyone was encouraged to bring their favorite “quarantini.” Our Zoom happy hour was a good opportunity to answer questions, enjoy fun and fellowship, and share in the struggles of homeschooling.

  • Establishing Daily Fun and Check-Ins
    We have had fun with Virtual Spirit Days! A different day brings a different theme; from Work Out Days to a Nature Scavenger Hunt, our Vikings are having fun while #alwayslearning. We also have been hosting daily morning shows at 8:00 a.m. via text, email, and Facebook posts as a way to stay connected and share information. The daily morning show includes prayers and themes: Make it Monday, Thrifty Tuesday, Walk-in Wednesday, Thankful Thursday, and Favorite Friday. Check out an episode.

    StAnne Pacelli 4

  • Honoring the Power of Voice in Connectivity 
    Out teachers and aides have been busy calling to check in on families at multiple different times through this experience to see how they are doing and how we can help make the transition smoother. Additionally, we have hosted virtual “Town Hall Meetings” with opportunities to submit questions or type them live in the chat box.

  • Creating a Warm Welcome for New and Prospective Families
    We are really working at staying in touch with prospective families via phone calls and emails. Our prospective families have received some of the same updates our current families are receiving, in addition to messages tailored just for them. Also, new families who have registered for 2020-2021 are receiving yard signs, delivered to their homes, welcoming them to the Viking family!


School-Wide Community

  • StAnne Pacelli 9Keeping Our Spirituality Central
    We hosted virtual Stations of the Cross and rosary for our families via the Laudate app and projected it via Zoom. St. Anne’s has also been hosting “Weekly Friarside Chats” with our friars. The friars read a book, sing songs, read bible stories, and answer questions live via Facebook. Additionally, our “Sidewalk Angels” have been visiting homes and writing messages of encouragement with sidewalk chalk.

  • Carving Out Time for Celebrations
    Our school community has thoroughly enjoyed our teacher and principals' parades, virtual spirit days, virtual youth nights, and door decorating at home for our graduates.

    St Anne Pacelli Car Parade Collage 2

  • StAnne Pacelli 3Trying a New Twist on an Old Favorite
    Flat Stanley (bitmoji's of the teachers) traveling to students and documenting via technology.

  • Helping Our Small Business Community 
    Every Friday the Morning Show features a segment called Favorite Friday which shares school family businesses. Check out an episode here.

Connecting with Faculty

  • Creating Regular Meetings and Regularly Scheduled Fun 
    We have regular team meetings that help to keep us connected. We also host regular teacher happy hours to keep us happy!

  • Show Them Love and Appreciation
    We also enjoyed a social distancing dance party in the parking lot, complete with loud music, adult beverages, and opportunities to socially interact while following all CDC guidelines.

    St Anne Pacelli Parking Lot Party Promo 2

Connecting with Students

  • StAnne Pacelli 7Keeping Traditions Alive
    We have found great success moving the following celebrations virtually: students' achievements continue to be spotlighted on social media, we held NJHS induction ceremony virtually, and celebrated Vikings of the Month! We are still sticking to handwritten birthdays cards in the mail.

  • StAnne Pacelli 5May Crowning Tradition Continues
    Traditionally, St. Anne-Pacelli Catholic School students in Kindergarten through 12th grades attend May Crowning prayer services. During each prayer service, students who embody the qualities of our Blessed Mother place a crown of flowers on a statue of Mary. Since we can't gather together in-person for our May Crowning, we were excited to celebrate Mary virtually.

  • Lean into Technology
    Our families participated in a Virtual National Field Day, Tik Tok Challenges, and Outdoor Fitness Solutions!

  • Adding Incentives for Tuning In
    For 6 weeks, the daily morning show featured a way for students to interact with the principal with virtual background locations. The students were able to guess the location and win a prize. The students were mailed a free ice cream coupon for guessing correctly with a little note saying they are missed. Check out an episode here.

  • Weekly Art Challenges Using Current Surroundings 
    Students weekly are encouraged to find examples of art around them. Whether it was perspective, illusion, or StAnne Pacelli 8mediums in the kitchen, fine arts never stopped at St. Anne-Pacelli.

  • Emphasizing that Paperback is Still Cool
    We have been hosting drive-through library pick up so our students can keep reading at their level and can also complete AR testing. Students simply request a book online and we have curbside pickup. The students have also loved virtual book clubs via Flipgrid.

Overall, we all miss our students, families, teachers, and community, and therefore, it is vital to find ways to connect. Please send the CSA team an email if you would like to share your creative ways of connecting! 

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