Late afternoon on April 8, Brophy Principal Mr. Bob Ryan sent out another email that gave the Brophy community updates on the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The community update featured information on final exams, summer classes and graduation activities.
Prior to this message being sent out, Mr. Ryan also held a virtual meeting with the full senior class where he expressed his remorse at the unfortunate circumstances surrounding their final year of high school.
Mr. Ryan told the seniors that he and the rest of the administration were committed to making the best of the current situation and doing right by the seniors.
As for graduation, the plan as of now is that there will be a commencement ceremony held on campus on Friday, June 26th for seniors and their parents only.
This reversal from the standard eight guests per graduate is meant to ensure the safety of all those involved in the ceremony as well as to maintain the integrity of social distancing practices.
The event will be livestreamed to the wider audience in the community and extended family of graduates.
In an email, Mr. Ryan said that there have not yet been any concrete decisions on what this graduation ceremony would look like adding that the plans will be made as the day comes closer and there is a clearer picture of the public health scenario for the scheduled time.
The tentative nature of all planning has since become the theme of much of the traditional aspects of the second semester.
Another graduation tradition that will be sidelined is the baccalaureate mass.
“In lieu of Baccalaureate Mass which cannot be translated to a meaningful online format, we will include a prayer component in the Commencement ceremony,” the email from Mr. Ryan said, adding, “In lieu of the Senior Farewell Dinner, we will introduce a new event, AMDG: 2020, on Friday, May 22. This virtual celebration will include a live streamed address by a faculty speaker chosen by the Class of 2020.”
“Though Baccalaureate Mass has been taken away by this pandemic, I am joyful and grateful to God that that the motto of this class just happens to be “Through Him, With Him, In Him” – the very words that end the altar consecration of the Eucharist at Mass,” said Mr. Paul Fisko, Director of the Office of Faith and Justice.
In an email, Mr. Fisko said that as of now, the plan for this graduation prayer aspect is to have a brief service with five components.
These components would include an opening prayer, scripture readings and tie-ins to the senior class motto, a senior chorale portion, a blessing of medallions which stems from the Jesuit tradition and a chance to offer petitions before a final “Our Father.”
He added that the OFJ is still in the process of finding meaningful symbolism in regards to the prayerful space, but have not settled on anything yet.
Brophy’s Annual Awards Assembly, the all school assembly where various awards and recognitions are handed out to students who the faculty deem worthy of receiving them, will also be moved online during finals week and will be spread out over four days.
Much of the rest of the academic year and beyond will also be affected by the switch to online learning and social distancing practices.
The email from Mr. Ryan said that the plan for final exams is to move ahead with the planned dates and adjust if necessary, likely in response to AP exams dates shifting.
In response to the new environment, many teachers have switched from standard test practices, such as multiple choice exams, to a more fluid, project based exam.
“It’s hard to have proctors for exams at your homes,” said Mr. John Damaso ’97, who heads the English department, “so having insecure, objective multiple choice tests doesn’t make a lot of sense because we can’t secure the environment.”
In Mr. Damaso’s case, he has been assigning short answer question reading quizzes instead of the usual multiple choice reading exams.
“It’s so much better, it’s a lot more work, but it’s way better at getting into your minds and I know a lot of teachers in math and science are trying to pose challenges and questions to students that require a lot of high level thinking and that require storytelling, video making and explaining rather than picking the best answer,” Mr. Damaso said.
He went on to say that the distance learning has forced pedagogies to adapt and become more sophisticated, adding that he doesn’t quite know how these pedagogies will change when students return to the classroom, but that the extra time that many people now have is one of the reasons that this more advanced pedagogy is feasible.
According to Mr. Ryan’s email, flexibility in determining exam formats has always been available to teachers, however, this is now coming into play much more.
Summer school opportunities are now also to be moved online and any athletic camps or P.E. courses are now cancelled.
This presents an interesting challenge to faculty members who plan on teaching a summer course as they now not only have to fit a semester or two of content into two and a half or four weeks, but must also do it in an online setting.