St. Barnabas School Finds Success with Distance Learning

May 1st marked the 7th week of online instruction for students at St. Barnabas School due to the COVID-19 health crisis. It has been a successful transition for most students and teachers thanks to the fast-acting response from Principal Erin Faetanini, who made the decision to shut down a day earlier than the Governor's orders to allow for the teachers to plan and prepare online learning materials for students. 

“I truly can’t get over how well St. Barnabas has handled the transition. I’m sure it was stressful to transition everything so quickly; lesson plan adjustments, technology implementation (and learning how to use it!), helping kids who struggle to learn outside a typical classroom setting, dealing with parent’s expectations, and so much more.” A St. Barnabas School parent said. “I love that my child has live classes and homework to do. It really helps keep him engaged, learning and on somewhat of a schedule.” 

The relative ease of transition is aided in part by small class sizes. The teachers, who are well-acquainted with students and their families can more easily connect and make personalized adjustments according to that student’s and their family’s unique needs. Erin Faetanini understands that most parents are working in a number of varying capacities all while trying to help their children continue to learn and grow.  One of Faetanini’s main objectives is to create a happy, stress-free learning environment for everyone.

“I have never been prouder of our school,” Faetnini said. “From our faculty moving to online courses with swiftness and ease, to our parents at home stepping up to work with their children; everyone has come together as a team. The willingness to help one another and make sincere efforts to connect with our students has been a true testament to our staff and the community here at St. Barnabas School.”

Along with the student’s standard learning materials, each family was given a Chromebook in the first week of distance learning to ensure every student had access to online learning materials. While the Chromebooks aren’t 1:1 right now, Faetanini’s goal is for each student to have their own Chromebook by fall. Through the leveraging of interactive tools such as Google Classroom and Hangouts, teachers are able to provide students and parents a single location to check assignments and turn in work.

“In an effort to keep things as normal and consistent as possible for students, each week is kicked off by “SBTV” announcements sent out via YouTube including birthday shoutouts and lunch ideas. Specials such as Physical Education, Music, Art, STEM, Spanish and even weekly Mass are offered digitally, though they aren’t required. The announcements create a sense of community for the students during this time where everyone feels a bit disconnected and the specials offer the opportunity for additional meaningful learning experiences,” said Faetanini.

As a tight-knit community, Faetanini understands the importance of feeling connected to one another. This Saturday morning, St. Barnabas had a drive-by parade for students to see their teachers in-person, but from a safe distance. Families were also asked to bring non-perishables food donations and items for Mary Queen of Peace Catholic School in Cleveland. 

"Being in a distance relationship requires you to find new ways to communicate. I am so proud to be part of a staff that has done just that. I am inspired by the creative ways that we have made our students feel connected as we guide them through the learning process”, 2nd-grade teacher, Kathleen Hamm said.  She added, “But more importantly, we continue to find ways to show our families that they are loved, supported and appreciated. This is the heart of St. Barnabas School and something that distance will never change."
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