While Edmund Rice schools and students have adjusted to learning at home over the past few weeks, many fellow Edmund Rice students at Guadalupe Regional Middle School in Brownsville, Texas have had to deal with different circumstances and challenges. Brother Arthur Williams shares how Guadalupe and its students have been coping with the new realities created by COVID-19.
Greetings from South Texas. We have been doing a lot of behind the scenes stuff with our students since March 13. Our students were already on Spring Break when the pandemic caused closures. Our families are not financially able to plan a vacation to some exotic place so most remained at home. As of that time, the city of Brownsville had begun self-imposed restrictions. The governor here did not promulgate any restrictions until early April. Local towns and county governments have had to take the lead in these early stages. We, therefore, have had 'shelter in place' here in Brownsville and now Cameron county for the past couple of weeks. At this time, all schools are now closed until at least the beginning of May.
Before the start of spring break, March 13, we assembled our students in the cafeteria and had them get all their books. We then handed out individual assignments sheets for at least the week following Spring Break. Last week we expanded this be having a 'drive by" pickup of another weeks assignments. We have a small, but significant, number of students who have no internet or computer available to them. For these students, teachers are preparing hard copy work that they can do. We are also being told to be sure to have work that the students can access from their textbooks. No multiple page projects to be run off from the copy machine!
We are offering parents the opportunity to do drive-by drop-offs of written work. A number of teachers continue to post assignments online which most students can complete their work and return it online. Yet the struggles of our families include not having amenities that many are accustomed to. A major concern regarding internet usage is that some families have limited internet plans and access. We are very much aware of the resources that our families have access to. I, fortunately, only have a small 8th grade algebra class for which all have a computer and internet service. Our struggle to provide support for these families and their children continue.
Dr. Miller, our principal, has been in contact with all of our families by letter, email and personal phone calls. We will be reaching with our limited 'food bank' products and offer them to our families most in need. As this looks as if we are in for the longer haul, we hope to provide some small service to them if only it is in providing school work around which these children can plan their day and be engaged. Students have also received a suggested daily schedule for planning their day, thanks to the organizational skills and thinking of Dr. Miller.
Our school motto is "College and Heaven.” Our proposed daily schedule opens and closes each day with a time for prayer. I am thinking about how to make this work on a more formal level. We continue to pray, for all of you who are in the 'hot zones', as well as for our local, state, and federal leader struggling to deal with this epidemic. Our prayers extend, of course, to our local bishops, priests, and deacons who keep the light of the gospel before us.
We pray for the intercession of Mary, our Mother, that through this we may be all drawn closer to God.