Catholic School Matters

May 10, 2020

Remote and Catholic

The debate is heating up around whether children can suffer from or transmit the virus and what role that plays in the decision whether (and how) to reopen schools. Teachers—especially those in high risk groups—are wondering whether they will even go back to teaching. More on this developing issue here. In Denmark, they have reopened early childhood grades because of the belief that children are not vectors; in Germany they have only re-opened upper grades because they believe older students will abide by social distancing and hygiene guidelines. What is becoming clear in Montana, however, is that planning for remote learning is unpopular among parents, teachers, and board members alike. A widespread sentiment is that parents will not reenroll or pay tuition if learning is remote.


But our remote learning efforts have certainly been more effective than our competition. We can get better and devote more efforts to improving our pedagogy and instructional effectiveness. Yet what has become obvious is that students (and parents) miss the community connections. Can we cultivate community connections in a remote learning environment? Can we be Catholic and remote? Can we add value to a remote learning experience that is valuable enough to expect a monetary commitment?


We’re seeing the same trend in higher education. Reportedly one in six graduating seniors is planning to take a gap year and colleges are readying plans to go all online—and expecting that enrollment in more expensive private schools will suffer. We could see a significant number of Catholic and private liberal arts colleges close.


How much will enrollment suffer in K-12 Catholic schools? A conservative estimate is 10-20% and that 30% overall income will drop next year. What has become clear is that our schools more closely resemble private schools. Tuition-paying parents are driving the decisions. Parishes and dioceses can no longer support (or bail out) under-enrolled schools. Our model is tuition-driven and if enough parents decide they don’t want or cannot afford to enroll, then the school has to close.


These conflicts aren’t going away anytime soon. Our parents are driving the conversation about the value of a remote Catholic education. Our challenge is to establish a value-added element that will motivate our parents to commit during these uncertain times.


Want to keep up with the conversations surrounding Catholic education? Set up your own Google Alert, subscribe to this newsletter by clicking "follow," subscribe to the Catholic Schools Daily, or subscribe to the Catholic School Matters podcast.


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: catholicdev@ispdconsulting.com; phone 504-491-2122; www.ispdconsulting.com

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

I've created a new curated list of resources for professional learning on technology, on remote learning as well as resources for teacher and parents.


Here is a link to my curated list of Education, Technology, Religion, and Advancement free resources. I haven't updated this list in a while and don't plan to.

What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts (1992) by Gary Chapman
    2. Beyond Obedience and Abandonment: Toward a Theory of Dissent in Catholic Education (2012) by Graham P. McDonough

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

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

    5. Public & Private High Schools: The Impact of Communities (1987) by James S. Coleman and Thomas Hoffa

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            May 3, 2020 "Safety & Normalcy"

            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 thecatholicexchange.com. 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.