St. James Families,

Welcome to the season of celebration! As we approach the end of the school year, we are all surely reflecting back on all that our students, staff, and families have achieved since August, as we should. But one of the joys of being principal during the spring is that I also get to look forward to the future!

If you’ve read the last several Rapp Ups, you know we are underway with our next strategic plan. We hope to publish the completed new plan by the fall, but in the meantime, some exciting first steps have presented themselves and will be implemented when we come back in August.

Using the Start-Stop-Continue model to gather input from groups of parents, students, and teachers, one clear initiative we should “Stop” is our Digital Days. After doing classes on Zoom during Covid, we kept Digital Days during class retreats in order to avoid having school days with 30-plus substitute teachers in the building covering for all the teachers putting on the retreat at Prairie Star Ranch, which is how we had done things prior to Covid. We thought utilizing Zoom classes would benefit our budget and simplify planning for teachers and staff, which ended up being true to an extent. But the reality is these days are not the best use of our time.

Conversations are underway about how we can reimagine what happens for the other three classes while one is on retreat. We will call these “Interim Days”, and while some details that you will see as part of the strategic plan in the fall are still being fleshed out over the coming months, there are others that we feel ready to start moving forward on immediately.

Because we have decided to not have Digital Day classes, we will make up for instructional time by adding two days to the end of the school year (don’t worry, we still finish before Memorial Day!) We will also move from four built-in snow days to two (if we cancel more than two days next year, those will be Digital Days). As we looked at how to utilize this time best, obviously one of the priorities was to ensure regular class instruction was not negatively impacted.

So what will Interim Days look like?

Incoming Freshmen will have several options that they have already signed up for when they enrolled back in February. Since the graduation requirements for the state of Kansas are changing with the class of 2028, we wanted to find creative ways to meet their requirements without limiting their elective options as upperclassmen, particularly in the arts. So these freshmen now have three options for Interim Days.

The first option is to take a new “Health Crash Course” over the three days of senior retreat, the two days of sophomore retreat, and the two days of junior retreat, completing a half-credit course required for graduation over these seven days.

The second option is to complete their Christian Stewardship Project (CSP) hours through a guided experience with our staff. We listened to feedback from some parents that Freshmen CSP hours can be a challenge simply because students can’t drive themselves to their service. Others said the CSP hours in general created challenges for family schedules and was sometimes an obstacle to that most precious and limited commodity: family time. Our Faith and Mission team is putting together a plan for those who choose this option to be taken to service opportunities by our school personnel on those seven days the other classes are on retreat, thus fulfilling the CSP requirement, but also creating a chance for an impactful service experience with some classmates and teachers. We are calling this exciting opportunity “Mission Days,” and more details will come in the fall.

The final option is to use the Interim Days as families see fit. Removing Digital Days and creating Interim Days is in part meant to respond to the strain families are feeling on their schedules and be creative in how we best partner with parents.

Sophomores, juniors, and seniors are encouraged to consider using the days the other classes are on retreat to complete their CSP hours, thus freeing up some evenings and weekends that would otherwise be spent away from their family. We would be remiss if we didn’t point out that the Family Option for CSP has been a profound experience for many, and so these days could be looked at as a time when a parent might want to take time to serve alongside their child if that were feasible.

If sophomores, juniors, and seniors do not use these days for their service, these days would be ideal times for college visits, appointments, and/or family trips that cannot be taken during the summer months. During this feedback process, teachers commented on the challenges of student absences, and Interim Days could be an opportunity for families to intentionally plan to meet some of these additional needs in a way that doesn’t keep them out of classes.

There are a few exceptions worth mentioning. Juniors will again be on campus for a half day on the first day of sophomore retreat (February 6th, 2025) for the COPE simulation we did this year. We also have extra time scheduled for our AP classes if individual AP teachers decide they need some extra time (see below for details). Also, students missing significant work or failing classes may be asked to come on campus and get caught up during these times.

We are excited for the opportunities that are being created by stopping a low-impact initiative, Digital Days, and considering what high-impact alternatives could exist. We hope to create more options for kids and families to support their various needs while going deeper into our mission. Keep us in your prayers as we continue to pray, plan, and progress towards making St. James the school God intends it to be!

Your brother in Christ,

Shane