Catholic School Matters

May 3, 2020

Safety & Normalcy

There certainly is a wealth of speculation about what we can expect when we reopen our schools this fall. It’s worth taking some time to consider the different scenarios and considering how we can meet the needs of our parents. Specifically, it seems most parents want safety and normalcy. What if we can provide exactly that through our planning?

This report from San Diego County has some of the best scenarios I’ve seen and this story about the Denmark schools which have reopened offers us a peek into the future. Check out the 20% and 50% scenarios that the SD report offers. In the 20% scenario, students/families are assigned one day per week to attend face-to-face instruction. The Monday group, for example, would become a larger quarantine circle, if you will, since the students could perhaps socialize with that group. On the other four days, those students would have a larger social circle and parents would have other families to share childcare and home instruction.

For smaller schools, the 50% scenario might make more sense. For schools who’ve set up families or houses, they might incorporate those structures into their cohorts. Putting aside (momentarily) the concerns about how to design simultaneous instruction, I believe our Catholic schools have the agility (and ability) to adapt to these circumstances and insure safety and normalcy. Perhaps not the normalcy of the pre-pandemic world, but a normalcy rooted in planning for every contingency.

If a student becomes infected, then the quarantine circle would have to stay home, not the entire school. As I’ve approached these scenarios, I’ve had this nagging marketing concern that we might want to perhaps play down our planning for remote instruction because our families are hungry for face-to-face instruction and a return to the way things were. Yet these scenarios actually lead to the continuous operations of the school. In the tradition model, for example, one infection might mean the entire school is shut down. In the 20% or 50% hybrid models, the school could continue and thus, we can market ourselves as the safest, most consistent option for the next year.

I offer Faustin Weber’s reflections here for a look at how one Catholic school leader is thinking about planning for next year and another link (in case you missed it) to the “Open Letter to Independent School Leaders.”

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Dr. Tim Uhl

This edition of Catholic School Matters is sponsored by the Institute for School and Parish Development (ISPD), a national development consulting firm founded in 1989; ISPD works exclusively with Catholic schools, parishes, and dioceses. In partnership with the University of Dayton, the Institute for School and Parish Development (ISPD) will be offering three new on-line summer courses beginning the week of June 15, 2020. Titled ISPD Summer Institute, 2020, each course will award Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and a Certificate of Completion from the university. Students not interested in the above are invited to audit any one or more of the courses. The three courses are:

  • Moving Your Catholic School Forward NOW: How to Create a Plan of Action to Face COVID-19 Challenges through People Engagement
  • Moving Your Catholic Parish Forward NOW: How to Create a Plan of Action to Face COVID-19 Challenges through People Engagement
  • 15 More Lessons Learned in 30+ Years in Catholic School Development: Moving Forward with Valuable Operational Vitality Lessons Midst the Challenges of COVID-19
For more information, please contact Frank Donaldson, president:; phone 504-491-2122;

For Your Reflection

Catholic Schools Closing

For the complete list of Catholic schools closing at the end of this school year, click here.

Educational Links

Resource List

  1. Resources from the Harvard Graduate School of Education

  2. Handbrake can be used to convert Screencastify videos; here's a great short tutorial on using Screencastify

  3. Teaching Resilience has free downloads and resources

Here is a link to my curated list of Education, Technology, Religion, and Advancement free resources. I'll update daily!


What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (2012) by David Quammen.
    2. The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts (1992) by Gary Chapman

    3. Beyond Obedience and Abandonment: Toward a Theory of Dissent in Catholic Education (2012) by Graham P. McDonough

    4. How to Live: What the Rule of St. Benedict Teaches Us About Happiness, Meaning, and Community (2018) by Judith Valente

    5. Evolving Learner: Shifting from Professional Development to Professional Learning (2020) by Lainie Rowell, Kristy Andre, and Lauren Steinmann

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            April 26, 2020 "Simultaneous Planning"

            April 19, 2020 "Trauma & Faith"

            Apr 13, 2020 "Road Map for the Next 6 Weeks"

            For previous newsletters, click this link

            Orchestrating Conflict

            Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic Leadership is now available on Amazon or on the Barnes & Noble site in print or e-book formats. The book explores issues in Catholic school leadership and the tensions between building community and following Church policies and introduces deliberate practice as a method for leadership formation. This is my first book and has been an ongoing project for the past couple of years.

            The Nashville (Virtual) Exchange

            The Nashville Exchange will be Virtual this July 16th! Our new normal is figuring out how to develop fellowship and learn through virtual environments. This is as true for school leaders as it is for students. Here is a copy of the flyer, here is a copy of the new schedule, and you can register through The exchange is designed for Presidents/Heads of Schools for Diocesan/Archdiocesan Catholic schools. We are asking for a $25 registration fee to reserve your spot and are grateful for the Greeley Center for their continued presenting sponsorship, as well as our partners Meitler Group and FACTS Education Solutions.