The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on every facet of life around the world. For many, coping with the changes in the wake of COVID-19 and seeking to determine how best to respond is a new challenge for not only parents, but also our children. Faith-based education can help children understand the larger picture, helping enable them to understand, discuss, and confront global problems for the common future. We sat down with educators from Boulder, Longmont, Erie and Broomfield to get their perspective.
Holy Family High School, Broomfield: Principal Matt Hauptly
“Holy Family students, faculty, and support staff understand that a strong moral compass that is guided by our shared faith has an impact not just in the classroom but the community at large. Learning, socializing, and participating in extracurriculars alongside peers with a shared belief system promotes a connectedness that heightens self-esteem, coping skills, and advocates less risky behavior.
Holy Family High School prides itself on being a community of faith with a commitment to academic excellence and we place the student experience firmly at the center of all our work. Our students are surrounded by people who genuinely care about them. As a result, it is highly empowering, and our students thrive because they feel at home and at ease.
Educating our students is most effectively done in person. For this reason, among many, it was so important that we were 100% in-person to educate our students during the 2020-21 school year.
We made a concerted effort to keep in person learning as normal as possible.
Mental health was the greatest and most compelling reason to return to in-person instruction for the 2020-21 school year. It is as much a priority as their physical wellbeing. Adolescence is a difficult time for everyone, if we separate these kids from their social connections it becomes much more difficult for them. Having our kids in the school building for their education is better for their overall health in the long run.
Being a student during a pandemic can be especially difficult. Our school and college counselors are here to support our students, especially during stressful times.
There were plenty of challenges last school year, but there were also many unexpected blessings. In my 20 years in education, I have never witnessed a student body so happy to walk into the school building each and every day.
Our students thrived academically, socially, artistically, athletically and spiritually by being in-person. I’m so thankful we were able to boldly live our mission and provide a Catholic learning environment that stresses academic excellence, fosters mutual respect, demands responsibility, and encourages self-growth.
We saw first-hand how our day-to-day choices matter as much as – or perhaps even more than – seemingly more significant life choices. Remaining vigilant and following the safety protocols, even when we were fatigued, allowed us to accomplish something many thought couldn’t be done.”
Vista Ridge Academy, Erie: Teaching Principal Sandy Hodgson
“As a faith-based school we believe in and rely on a higher power. We believe God is in control. He has created us with the ability to study, evaluate, and follow best practices. Since we are still in the midst of COVID, Vista Ridge Academy will navigate the pandemic again as we continue our in person learning. It impacts everything we do from our methods of teaching, interactions with other classrooms, campus visitors, and extracurricular activities and programming. We have been very careful to follow CDPHE and CDC guidelines. Our families have been amazing in their support.
We want to help our students and families realize that things happen that are not within our control; however, we can control our responses to situations. We want students to be able to ask questions, talk about their fears, and then learn how to respond appropriately. We may not always agree, but we are all worthy of respect. We are teaching our students how to create a plan, be resilient, become stronger, and meet challenges that come their way.
Our mascot is the eagle, and our theme through the pandemic has been to “Protect the Nest.” We want our students, our families, and our community to be intentional in making choices, through the pandemic and beyond, to be inclusive and safe. Our students deserve the best now and moving forward. They are learning to be great citizens at home, in school, their neighborhood, and the world at large. We hope they are learning how important it is to respect and care for each other. Our core values include Christ Centeredness, Honor, Exploration, Responsibility, Integrity, Service, and Heroism. We teach and point to these values in all our classes, not just our Bible curriculum. They allow us to realign in academic and social settings. We want students to respect themselves and others, even during times of disagreement.
Vista Ridge Academy is a preschool through 8th grade school supported by two area churches, Boulder Seventh-day Adventist Church and Chapel Haven Seventh-day Adventist Church. We’re owned and operated by the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Our educational system is one of the largest in the world and it is an honor to take part in the training of future leaders.”
Our mascot is the eagle, and our theme through the pandemic has been to “Protect the Nest.” We want our students, our families, and our community to be intentional in making choices, especially through the pandemic, to keep everyone safe. Our students deserve the best now and moving forward. We want them to be great citizens at home, in school, their neighborhood, and the world at large. We hope they are learning through the pandemic how important it is to respect and care for each other.”
Longmont Christian School, Longmont: Executive Director Dave Stoecker
“Because of the pandemic, people no longer have as many social connections and there is a record-setting number of overdoses, depression, and suicide. The foundation of our thinking that has stood the test of time is challenged. Surveys of people aged 18-35 show that only one in five has a sense of purpose. When you look at that and what undergirds our life plan, you realize that the Christian worldview allows us to offer a place to hang things on, like coat hooks.
Students wonder, ‘Why should we care for others, what do we hang that on, what is the big picture, look at things?’ Human beings are created in the image of God, and we have a purpose or calling. As a faith-based school, we can help students deal with the big issues and items because our faith says there is a purpose behind it all. We can discuss in an age-appropriate way any topic and relate that to the academic subjects like science and math. We can allow kids to bring up their doubts and questions. We can teach them how to think rather than what to think, how to process and think for themselves. I’m in my fifth year as E.D. and when I came in, we talked about increasing the academic rigor. We are concerned with the whole idea of identity, purpose and gifting. We’re teaching students to think critically and globally.
At Longmont Christian we are looking at the habits of scholarship and character in an intentional way. Starting with the youngest students we’re exploring the habits of character: compassion, gratitude, integrity, reflection and self-value. In addition, we’re studying the habits of scholarship: resilience, accountability, craftsmanship, curiosity, courage and collaboration. Every morning in their ‘crew’ or groups the students will learn how their faith should influence everything they do. The idea is to build in those habits from the youngest ages so the students are helping their fellow classmates, being more collaborative, and serving their community. In age-appropriate ways they become in charge of their flight, not just passengers.
If you look at the history of the United States it went from being founded on Christian principles to being almost anti-Christian. We mean to communicate that we’re going to live out Christ’s vision for us in the marketplace, standing for truth in a loving way. That was the commandment, stand firm in the faith but be loving, compassionate, effective and well educated.
People need to understand that we are not insular in this world. Suicide, gender concerns, our students experience these because we are not in a Christian bubble. When kids are questioning, we try to have a safe space, so they can come to us and have age-appropriate conversations. We are not judgmental, but we believe we have a source for solid answers to help them.”
Sacred Heart of Jesus School, Boulder
“We offer a Christ-centered Sacred Heart of Jesus School education focusing on character, virtues and service-mindedness.
Sacred Heart of Jesus School challenges each of our students to strive for their highest personal best spiritually, intellectually, socially and physically. High academic standards, expert instruction and supportive programs such as the Learning Center and Homework Club ensure that our students not only succeed, but they also flourish. As an educational community, we embrace global learning through problem-solving, communication, critical thinking, creativity and responsible citizenship.
Established in 1900, we are Boulder’s oldest private school and one of the most-enduring educational institutions in the area. We are the HEART of Boulder. Prayer, religious education and growth in the Catholic faith are fundamental to teaching and learning at SHJS. Students participate in programs of formation with their peers, parents and with the whole school community.”
By Linda Thorsen Bond for Raised in the Rockies.