School years begins with Adaptation and Change

Esteban Serrano, Lead Editor

The 2020-2021 school year is officially under way, and schools across the city, state, country, and the world have been having to adapt to a “new normal,” as kids and teens head back to school physically for another year of learning.

Central Catholic has started slow into the administration’s “phased” returning to school format. August 17 was the first day of school for Central Catholic students. Four weeks have now gone by and a historic start to the school year has been under way virtually via thirty-minute Zoom classes, and just starting this week, the A/B alternating format has been put into high gear. The campus is welcoming students every other day depending on their hybrid letter, with last names beginning with A-K designated as ‘A’, and L-Z names designated as ‘B’.

Some teachers have had their own personal experiences dealing with the severeness of the pandemic, and giving students an education. Fabiola Mendez, a fifth year Spanish instructor at Central, says, “…the adjustment has been a little rough…I miss my boys tremendously.” Daniel McCarthy, an English instructor going on his seventh year, suggests his work ethic and adjustment to the first three weeks were “unusual” by saying, “As a teacher, you’re used to having to adapt…every class is different and every student is different…the work is still the same, only you have to approach it differently. Teaching online doesn’t change how you build relationships with students or share content.”

As for that first historic day of instruction on August 17, teachers were just as nervous as students were. Mendez says, “The very first day was exciting!  I loved seeing the students and especially my older kids and hearing about their lives these past months.”

McCarthy says, “It was stressful, it was very new, it was weird…It’s different on how you see a student on the first day of school compared to on a screen…you can only read so many expressions.”

Ali Goljahmofrad, Dean of Students at Central Catholic, when asked about how his position and role in the school has been shifted due to COVID-19, said, “I’d say everybody’s job duties and definitions changed. Everybody had to become a student of logistics. Everybody had to review protocols and processes to ensure safety. It’s actually one of the things that makes me so proud to be a part of this community. Our teachers, our operations team, our JROTC and Athletic departments, our parents, really everybody has stepped up to address campus needs.”

As for change in his work ethic, he said, “Some adjustments are by choice, others come out of necessity. There is a certain satisfaction that comes from long hours and days filled with healthy stress. I haven’t made an adjustment to my work ethic per say. If a job needs to be done, we just get it done. That’s what separates our faculty and staff from others. I can’t even begin to describe how much energy and effort they’re giving.”

Rev. Sean Downing, on campus with the Marianists, explains that his mission as a priest has been shifted heavily, as he prepares to see students gain at a safe distance saying, “As a priest and chaplain at Central Catholic the pandemic has been difficult. Priestly ministry is centered around being present to others. So, I have had to adapt like everyone in live streaming Masses. Also using Zoom to talk to people about their faith journeys has been a change in the way I work…The biggest challenge is I miss the energy of our Central Catholic students.”

Another staple that goes along with the beginning of the school year- the Button football season. While TAPPS did confirm football would be played this season with enforced guidelines to keep players, coaches, and spectators as safe as possible, Central Catholic is set to face San Antonio Christian on the 25th of this month. Given that, preparation has been going on for quite some time.

Mike Santiago, head coach for the Varsity Button Football squad, finds the adjustments in both school and on the field to be “a challenge,” and “exhausting.” “What we are working with is just playing the game on the field but when the players are off the field we are constantly making them stay 6′ apart. It is hard for them in that they have helmets and masks on and are trying to talk to each other…What I am finding is that we spend 75% of our time coaching football and 25% of our time coaching Covid protocols. It gets exhausting,” Santiago says.

All who were interviewed were asked what their hopes were for the remainder of this school year in particular:

Mendez said, “…a vaccine and to return to “normalcy”

McCarthy said, “…it all is going to even out…COVID is a big problem, yes, but life eventually moves on.”

Goljahmofrad said, “We have faith that we’re not just going to “get through this.” We are going to continue to cultivate an environment through events and interactions that have built, and will continue to build, the Brotherhood. We have faith that every single one of our students who invests into this year will get just as much, if not more, out of this than any other year. My personal hope is to see all of our students back on campus, every single day. We miss the banter. We miss the boys. We miss the Brotherhood. Central is a family, and we all want to be with our Family.”

Downing said, “The hopes and prayers that I have are: The medical world finalizes a vaccine and this pandemic ends, that as a nation the United States becomes kinder and more compassionate, I pray and hope that the CCHS community grows in the love of Christ. And like Mary, Jesus’ mother, we are moved to help the poor and vulnerable of our society, and I pray and hope that we are aware of the social injustice in San Antonio. That our students pray, think, and then serve others to create a just world.”

Santiago said, “My goal and hopes for this year is that we can have these players complete a season so they can have a somewhat normal year participating in the sport they love. We just try to win each day.”

As one could tell, teachers and staff members of all sorts have mixed emotions about this year. As the hybrid schedule began this week, precautions galore were taken to make sure each student is learning in a safe environment. Central hopes to welcome all students back to campus starting next month.

Mr. Cassler
Mr. Cassler
Mr. Cassler


Mr. Cassler
Mr. Cassler