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The Impact of COVID-19 on Education + Community

Dowling Catholic High School Innovation

April 10, 2020

As president of Dowling Catholic High School, much of my responsibility is focused on advancing our mission and protecting our students. I work with staff to monitor trends in education and create strategic plans to ensure DCHS is positioned for the future. I partner with our administration team to refine internal processes and create plans for scenarios we hope will never happen. Enter the COVID-19 pandemic — a crisis impacting our community in ways no one could have adequately prepared for with consequences no one can solve.

Innovation in Times of Crisis

In the midst of the uncertainty, one thing has become very clear to me. Crisis can result in innovation. I have seen this time and time again in recent weeks as our teachers and students have gone above and beyond to keep the education process moving forward. I could not be more pleased with the initiative, resourcefulness and creativity that has resulted from teachers and students alike.

Online Classes + Virtual Resources

We resumed classes “online” at Dowling Catholic on Tuesday, March 24 following spring break, and I am grateful for this opportunity to share some of the remarkable things underway. Teachers are finding efficient ways to increase their skill sets using online resources and training one another on available technologies. Online textbook resources are being utilized given that students did not have access to their lockers following the break. Our technology specialists prepared Chromebooks for students who do not have adequate technology at home, and we helped identify resources for those who did not have internet access.

Interventionists are reaching out weekly to help overcome obstacles for students who are not typical learners. Our cultural and community liaison has been working with families to address language barriers and access issues. This role has never been more important as our students come from 41 different zip codes and nearly a third are from culturally diverse backgrounds. We are also working to connect our students who receive free and reduced lunches with community resources to meet their needs during this time in which so many families are negatively impacted financially.

Our counselors have been connecting with students and providing them with resources as they deal with the effects of this isolation and uncertainty. Even the attendance office staff has taken their work online as they follow up with parents and students who are not fully participating in classwork. Cleaning crews are going to great lengths to ensure we can welcome students back to a safe environment when this is all behind us. And so many others are working behind the scenes to do everything we can for our students even amid the current constraints.

I have had so many people share with me that Dowling Catholic is so much more than just a school. Never has this been more evident than it is today. From our student-produced Maroon Crew News videos, to online community prayer held every afternoon, to student athletes and coaches meeting virtually to discuss faith through our new Huddle program, I am struck by the ways the Dowling Catholic community is staying connected and caring for one another during this time when we are apart.

Looking beyond the school walls, these stories of positivity and perseverance extend to the Greater Des Moines (DSM) community, which is filled with individuals who are compassionate, innovative and determined to make a difference. These individuals serve as tremendous role models for our students — showing them what it means to sacrifice in order to protect the most vulnerable, that we are stronger together and what it means to be part of a community.

As I watch this public health crisis unfold, I have never been more proud of this generation of future leaders or more grateful for this community. While we will never be quite the same, the ties that unite us are strong and I believe we will come out better than we were before.

You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.

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Dr. Dan Ryan

President at Dowling Catholic since 2017, Dr. Dan Ryan draws on lessons learned as a special education teacher, principal, superintendent and school choice advocate. His wife and children accommodate his enthusiasm for running family meetings like executive sessions. Dr. Ryan is relieved that fly fishing, one of his favorite hobbies, is conducive to social distancing.