Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to Monsignor Kieran McHugh at Pope John XXIII Regional High School in Sparta from a Pope John alumnus.
Dear Monsignor McHugh,
One-hundred and seventy-two days: that is the length of time that your students, faculty, and staff will have been out of school if/when they return to in-person learning by Sept. 1. One-hundred and seventy-two days is still not enough.
I remember walking through the halls of Rev. George A Brown and being taught the virtues of kindness, empathy, and love. From the time we were wee cherubs, we treated others as we would like to be treated. We were taught that God himself wants us to not only care for ourselves, but for everyone around us as well.
I remember teachers holding their heads high when speaking in front of a group of young learners because Pope John Lions hold themselves to a different standard. We were reminded that we are the future because of those higher standards in education and that we also have a responsibility to share and live the teachings of Jesus—including, and especially when the health and safety of others are at stake. By blaming our educators, you have fallen below the standards you set so high for so long. By requiring parents to choose either their children’s safety or their children’s education and opportunity, you are not caring for any cherub. You are only hurting them, regardless of whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.
In times of great upheaval, we often find ourselves faced with nearly impossible choices. It is only natural to attempt to find a simple solution to a complicated problem, even if it is not the best one. How can you say that teachers simply do not wish to teach? How can you say that your solution is the best one, only because it is your own (and may be best for you)? How can you minimize the risks involved in the day to day care of hundreds of students and their families?
We are living in unprecedented times. We do not yet know the extent of damage that SARS CoVid-19 can cause or the long-term ramifications on an individual’s health. We do not know what the process of recovery looks like for a student’s family, their teachers, or even their teachers’ families. We do not know how an outbreak can or will affect the local healthcare systems -- can an ICU handle the entire teaching staff on ventilators? How sure are you that your “nanotechnology” truly kills airborne pathogens? How can you be so sure that God’s plan isn’t to have children engage in remote learning for some more time? None of us, including you, have all the answers.
We were caught off-guard when the outbreak hit. We had no insight into what the virus could do. We did not know of the damage it would cause to families, schools, or local communities. We know the extent of the damage now. We know the horrors of respiratory failure. We know that CoVid-19 patients may suffer from long-term heart and lung damage. Do you believe that your $15,750 per year science experiment is what Jesus would do?
I believe in a God that puts people over profit. I believe in a God that extends love and kindness and forgiveness to all. With that being said, you still have time to change course and do what is in the best interest of the community you serve. You have time to mitigate risks for not only your students, but also for faculty and staff who undeniably dedicate their time, energy, and love to the children of Rev. Brown and Pope John. You can care for the cherubs as well as for those who dutifully work under you, year after year after year.
You can still hold yourself to the Pope John Lion Standard.
You can still hold yourself to the standard set forth in the stories of Jesus.
Children are precious and should not be used as pawns. I just wish that the people who want to return to school would consider the impact their decisions will have on others, both directly and indirectly.
Stay the course and be not afraid, for God is with you always... even in a remote learning classroom.