BMHS Innovates, Transforms, and Thrives in a Time of Crisis
Bishop McNamara High School actively monitored the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic since its first reported case in the United States in January, 2020 and throughout the months of February and March as the virus spread throughout the country. As the pandemic engulfed all regions of the nation, President/CEO Dr. Marco Clark ‘85 and Principal Mrs. Dian Carter called together the school’s Crisis Response Team to implement plans and execute procedures regarding the potential move to remote learning in case the school’s physical campus had to be closed to enact physical distancing measures to insure the safety and well-being of the Bishop McNamara community.
Out of an abundance of caution, the school courageously announced on Thursday, March 12 the closure of the physical campus. This was days earlier than the announcement to close schools from the State of Maryland and many other private and independent schools in the Washington Metropolitan area. Starting on Friday, March 13, the physical campus was closed. Administration, faculty, and staff utilized the next several days for professional development to transition to remote learning by the following week.
With great thought and care to continue to advance the school’s vision and fulfill its mission to educate hearts and minds, by Thursday, March 19, the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the patron saint of the Congregation of Holy Cross, less than a week later, Bishop McNamara High School held its first day of full remote learning classes for every course among its more than 850 students. A tremendous achievement! Yet, one worthy of Bishop McNamara High School as Holy Cross people with hope to bring!
The school was well positioned to meet this crisis because it has engaged in various forms of remote instruction since the 2006-2007 school year that incorporated scheduled Distance Learning Days. Today, Bishop McNamara High School stands as a national leader in remote learning and the school’s frameworks and policies in this area guide and inform many Catholic and independent schools throughout the region and beyond.
Our Mustangs have kept learning and achieving while many schools closed. They remain resilient, eager, and engaged learners. They are a source of inspiration for the future. As Senior Class Executive President Ayanna McCarley ‘20 noted about how Bishop McNamara students have responded to this crisis, “We will be able to unite more because of our current situation. It will allow us to become more understanding and empathetic toward one another.” Our employees remain committed to their shared vocation as Holy Cross educators. They continue to explore and shape ideas and offer personal and differentiated instruction with zeal and care offered now on the most up-to-date platforms. Bishop McNamara continues to prepare students, as our founder Blessed Basil Moreau hoped for more than 180 years ago, “for better times than these.” Indeed, Bishop McNamara meets and exceeds Fr. Moreau’s call!
“We will be able to unite more because of our current situation. It will allow us to become more understanding and empathetic toward one another.”Senior Class Executive President, Ayana McCarley '20
Bishop McNamara High School employs a student centered approach in its remote instruction and uses remote instruction in all its courses across every academic discipline including Science, Math, English, Social Studies, Information Technology and Engineering, Theology, Modern & Classical Languages, Fine Arts, and Health and Physical Education. Led by our Assistant Principal for Academics Mr. Charles Shryock and the school’s dedicated academic team, Bishop McNamara students and families have access to the school’s Remote Learning Guide for Students and Families. This guide provides information about Maccess, which serves as the school’s “home base” for posting all lessons, assignments, and more. Students, families, administrators, counselors, and student support teams use this one location to check for assignments, course syllabi, instructional videos, enrichment activities, and collaborative documents across all classes, to ensure students are making progress. These platforms enable Bishop McNamara’s devoted Holy Cross educators not only to administer all of its classes, but allow for the entry of student grades and administration of report cards with letter grades, a process that continues until the conclusion of the 2019-2020 academic year. This helps students applying to colleges and universities as these institutions will see that instruction did not cease at Bishop McNamara High School during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bishop McNamara High School’s outreach remains comprehensive as remote learning has been supplemented with a host of robust resources provided by our Counseling Center, Student Support Services, the St. Joseph’s Program for students with learning differences, the St. Andre Program for students with intellectual disabilities, and Campus Ministry. Students meet virtually with their grade level counselors to discuss their academic performance, but also speak with them about how they are emotionally dealing and coping with this crisis. In addition, students and families access and share learning plans and strategies with the school’s outstanding student support instructors to meet curricular goals. Also, students engage an array of spiritual resources and meditation activities offered by the school’s faithful campus ministers. In addition, Bishop McNamara’s athletic coaches, fine arts instructors, and club moderators hold virtual practices, rehearsals, and discussion forums to enable these formative activities to advance during this stressful period. Finally, members of the school’s administration, on top of competently executing the school’s crisis response plan, personally contact Bishop McNamara families to learn about how each student and their family are responding and dealing with this national emergency.
Indeed, Bishop McNamara is doing everything possible to help during this crisis including the creation of The Bishop McNamara Family Crisis Fund with the hashtag #BMHSFAMILY. This fund responds to families financially with emergency tuition and crisis support as together, as one #BMHSFAMILY, we will stride through this unprecedented crisis!
Remote learning instructional days begin with Principal Carter sending out daily announcements that include prayers, the Pledge of Allegiance, the BMHS School Code, and pertinent information about the day's events for students and parents/guardians including a video segment produced by Mrs. Carter and her husband Kevin called, “Keeping Up with the Mustangs!”
Teachers post all lessons and activities for the day in Maccess by 8:15 am. Instruction and assessment takes place both synchronously and asynchronously to attain optimal learning outcomes.
Synchronous instruction allows for an instructor to meet with students in real time so that they can give lectures, show and demonstrate skills, and field questions live via teleconference tools.
Asynchronous instruction allows students to access lessons and complete assignments at any time before they are due. This kind of instruction remains the norm for most courses operating remotely at Bishop McNamara High School.
Assignments are due, at the earliest, by 11:59 pm of the next school day. Our instructors are advised to make direct instruction short and rich, and keep recorded lectures under 15 minutes and to offer a “personal touch” or interaction at least once a week while tracking student progress to ensure participation and completion.
Bishop McNamara High School’s comprehensive response to this national emergency resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic remains grounded in its mission to educate hearts and minds in a dynamic, inclusive Catholic school community rooted in the Holy Cross tradition. Inspired by its vision to form empowered leaders, inspired by the Gospel, who transform the world, the physical closure of the school’s campus has not prevented Bishop McNamara from advancing its vision or fulfilling its mission. Bishop McNamara continues to make God known, loved, and served. We remain for our students, families, employees, and alumni a community with hope to bring. Our community is innovating, transforming, and thriving in this time of crisis. As we say each day:We are Bishop McNamara! We are Holy Cross! We Choose to Build Family, Show Respect, Educate Our Minds and Hearts, and Bring Hope! We Choose to Think with Christ!
More than 68% of our students receive tuition support. One of the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic is that many members of our McNamara Family who were already struggling have been pushed past the brink.
We seek to rally together to help our friends, neighbors, and fellow Mustangs. Bishop McNamara is doing everything possible to help, but much more is needed for emergency tuition and crisis support. We know these are uncertain times for all of us.
Thank you for considering a gift of any amount to the Bishop McNamara Family Crisis Fund today.