The 2020-21 school year looks very different for everyone in Northern Kentucky, including for those who attend the region’s private schools. While private schools are concerned with all of the same things that concern public schools—such as providing quality academics and keeping students and teachers safe—they have the additional concern of keeping to their mission during this unprecedented time.

Laura Koehl, president of Notre Dame Academy in Park Hills, says that her school’s mission is at the core of everything they do.

“We are an all-girls school dedicated to educating young women and making a difference in the world,” she says.

This emphasizes developing the whole person and not just their academics. “I think when you’re in that private school context, we place a lot of value obviously on students developing their social and emotional and spiritual components of themselves in addition to their academic selves,” she adds.

NDA has rolled all of these components into the new school year. As the school opened with all students returning to school, NDA started with in-person orientations for each grade and meetings with school counselors over Google Meet.

Once the regular school week resumed, students returned to their classrooms. However, several “auxiliary” classrooms were also set up. Classes with this set up have both a main classroom and an additional classroom that is connected to the class by Google Meet. Students rotate between the two options.

“We have cameras set up, they can teach so that’s being projected into the other two possible spaces and there’s back and forth so they can interact with questions and presenting information,” says Koehl.

Other private schools have also incorporated this whole-person focus into the new school setup. Examples include Villa Madonna Academy in Villa Hills, where kindergarten through sixth grade students are being divided into small groups, allowing for personal interaction with the teacher despite social distancing, and St. Henry District High School in Erlanger, which is developing safe ways for students to attend mass.

But one of the biggest concerns for prospective parents may be how to get a good feel for the school when they can’t attend an open house or have their child shadow another student.

Koehl recommends keeping an eye on the schools your family is considering as they will be rolling out new ways to connect with families over the coming months.

“We are certainly [doing] like a virtual tour,” says Koehl of NDA. “We’ll have to ramp up the personal outreach. We have a wonderful parent admissions council that helps with corresponding with our other parents or perspective parents, so I think that that personal touch really matters, whether it’s on the phone or on a Google Meet. We will try, if we’re permitted, [to have] some small group gatherings.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to reach out to the grade schools and be able to work with them and minimize the exposure that their children have to any place outside the school building. It may be just going to them with presentations and a video, again that personal outreach.”