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St. Jude Catholic School Students Jump Start New Year with Summer School

St. Jude Catholic School Students Jump Start New Year with Summer School

In a “normal” year, most students would be less than enthusiastic about spending part of their summer in school. But 2020 has been anything but normal. To help students bridge any coronavirus-related learning gaps prior to the start of the new school year, St. Jude Catholic School in Joliet provided academic enrichment during June and July to children in grades K-8.

Spread throughout five classrooms in the school, 45 students – facemasks in a variety of patterns and colors securely in place – spent time on content areas, such as reading, writing and math, with Catholic faith formation at the core. The six-week program was offered to students who needed support at no cost, and classes were limited to 10 students per room.

“We felt that with the changes brought on by COVID-19, it would be helpful for our students to get some extra work to fill in the gap from the at-home learning time and also provide enrichment opportunities for the students who needed that as well,” said Lucas Stangler, the school’s principal.

Parents, teachers, faculty and staff members worked together to offer the program, with teachers devoting part of their summer vacation to prepare and teach lessons.

“I enjoyed being back in the classroom – it was a lot of fun,” said Stangler, who taught the junior high math class.

Sister Rose Dominic Daily, a second grade teacher, asked her students, “What would it feel like to take off on a spaceship to the moon?” as a writing prompt, sending the children on a story-writing mission about Golly the Dog and his adventure to the moon.

Students responded positively to the summer school experience, with one saying her favorite part of the program were math and drawing, and another was happy to learn and spend time with friends. Another said, “E-learning was hard. The classroom is easier, and I understand questions better in person.”

In addition to student feedback, parent feedback was welcomed and helped form plans for returning to school this fall. “My kids really liked being back in the school setting with other kids,” said Sarah Tafoya, parent of a second grader and third grader. “Even with precautions in place, face-to-face learning is important and easier to gauge how well a student is doing, and how to encourage growth in all areas – mental, physical and spiritual.”

The social and emotional development of students was also considered in the formation of the program. “We enrolled to provide our daughter the chance to socialize and have a normal routine again,” said the parent of a junior high student. “In addition to enhanced learning and gaining subject-matter confidence through personal instruction, this program provided her with a sense of stability and community which she greatly missed during the shutdown.”

The 54 Catholic schools in the Diocese of Joliet have already re-opened for face-to-face instruction this school year with health and safety measures, such as masks, social distancing, wellness checks and ongoing sanitizing, in place. Find a school near you at