The story of St. Thomas Aquinas' quick and seamless response to the Covid-19 pandemic actually goes back over 20 years ago with the 1999 publication of Flu by Gina Kolata, an account of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Several teachers read it and its warnings were worth paying attention to. In fact, the school put together a "mega-class" (a lesson involving multiple teachers from different disciplines presenting to an entire grade of students) about the history of the disease and what lessons we could learn from it.
A few years later, the school assigned The Hot Zone by Richard Preston, about the Ebola plague, to every incoming freshman class. In short, the school lay the foundation for thinking globally and strategically long before the reality of a pandemic impacted the world.
The second phase of our preparation came in 2018, when the school implemented its one-to-one program...in which the school distributed Google Chromebooks to every student. In addition, the faculty received extensive and ongoing training -- including up to December of 2019 -- in the use of Google Classroom both live and remotely. So, the school had over 18 months' of very relevant experience with the various applications and features of the Google platform.
Which brings us to March of 2020. Early in that month, the administration of St. Thomas Aquinas recognized that events were moving quickly in the direction of mandated distance learning. Though stay-at-home orders had not yet been announced, nor even hinted at, the school proposed and assembled a Task Force as early as March 6, focused on distance learning, communications, sanitizing the school, and preparing for a return to normalcy. The group assembled and, in less than 24 hours, set up a refresher training program with every teacher and staff member in the school. The team also proposed and refined the daily schedule for students at home and set protocols for various forms of distance learning...from live "Zoom" classes to message boards to independent assignments and more. On March 16, remote learning was mandated by the state of New Hampshire.
The school aimed at continuing much of the regular routine -- although from a distance -- for our students: daily prayer, the Pledge, and announcements (including the celebrations of birthdays) carried on except via video. And classes continued without a hitch.
As a result, STA did not lose a step. While everyone would prefer that we were all back in our familiar classrooms, the school accomplished with minimum disruption a vital transition to distance learning. And we did so because we were already prepared -- philosophically, academically, technologically and professionally to make that shift for the benefit and safety of our students and their families.
Like everything St. Thomas Aquinas High sets out to do, the swiftness and success of our response to Covid-19 was only made possible because the school's faculty, staff and administration had the foresight and the commitment to excellence...a commitment that is our hallmark.