Ahead of the Pack With Digital Distance Learning Plan

When the COVID-19 pandemic became a reality in March with Gov. Mike DeWine’s order to close Ohio school buildings, Mount Notre Dame (MND) was prepared. The MND Digital Distance Learning Plan was launched immediately, allowing for a digital environment in which a school day could be held in a nontraditional manner. The school prepared to effectively teach using this plan as long as necessary, even when they could not return to campus for the remainder of the school year.

The plan is based on three key strategies: Planning (including instruction and assessment); Feedback (allows students and faculty to gauge learning); and Support (allowing students to have digital access to teachers as well as MND’s guidance and intervention departments). “We were able to easily transition into our digital distance learning  plan because of our strategic planning,” says Principal Karen Day. “Our technology platforms are cutting edge. We have been providing tech-active lessons for 10 years with our one-to-one Tablet PC pro- gram. Our faculty and students are well-versed in digital learning and communication tools. There’s no substitute for the face-to-face MND Experience, but we knew that we could make the best of this situation, keep the MND spirit alive, and prepare our students for the next steps in their educational journey.”

When faced with the unprecedented reality that the Class of 2020 would not be able to experience the traditional end-of-year senior activities or commencement exercises, MND was once again prepared. Tapping into the creativity, dedication and resourcefulness of faculty and staff members, MND was able to thoughtfully plan safe and special events to honor the Class of 2020.

“Cougarbration,” in late April, allowed seniors to participate in a scheduled drive-through in the MND parking lot where they were safely celebrated and cheered. Students remained in their vehicles while they proceeded through the parking lot. It was an opportunity for them to receive important items such as caps and gowns, senior yard signs, time capsules and other special graduation gifts. More importantly, it provided a meaningful memory for a senior class whose ending was like no other class before it.

Perhaps the biggest challenge we faced in our socially distant COVID-19 world was the Class of 2020 Baccalaureate Mass and Commencement exercises. Joining in prayerful celebration as a graduating class is a rite of passage for seniors, as is donning MND’s Columbia-blue cap and gown and receiving their hard-earned diplomas. Once again, MND rose to the occasion. The Baccalaureate Mass was livestreamed from St. Columban Church on May 25. Seniors and their families were able to join virtually and spiritually while experiencing a joyful liturgy.

MND’s four-day graduation celebration took place May 26-29. Each student was scheduled for a particular day and time so that they, along with six family members/guests, could safely come to MND for an individual graduation ceremony and formally receive their di- ploma. It also afforded students and families the opportunity to have professional photos taken, walk the halls one final time and say goodbye to faculty and staff.

We may not know what the future holds in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, but MND was able to begin the 2020-2021 school year as scheduled with a full student body of 715 students. Some new protocols had to be put in place for social distancing and personal protection, but the school has remained open with minimum disruption. However, you can be sure that MND staff and students are well prepared for Distance Learning — with individuals, a percentage of the student body or the entire school.

Class Creativity

  • Students in Paula Schute’s precalculus honors class received a little “precalculated” surprise when USWNT star and 2019 World Cup champion Rose Lavelle, ’13, dropped in on their Zoom review session!
  • Caley Burke, ’00, a graduate of MIT and current rocket scientist for NASA, joined Mary Beth Rieth’s engineering classes via Zoom. Caley discussed her career as an aerospace engineer, her work on the International Space Station and the Mars Rover.
  • Since the freshman and sophomore dance could not take place as scheduled in April, MND hosted a virtual dance party via Zoom. Students got all glammed up for a virtual fashion show and learned a choreographed dance for TikTok.
  • MND’s Multicultural Student Union hosted a Zoom luau in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May. Students wore their favorite Hawaiian-themed outfits as they heard from MND students who recently travelled to Japan as part of MND’s newest cultural/academic exchange

Mount Notre Dame High School is located at 711 E. Columbia Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45215. For more information, visit www.mndhs.org.