The first schools in colonial America were in the home, but the next were faith-centered collectives that taught children how to read the Bible. And it was a preacher, Cotton Mather, who was the first to fight a rampant smallpox plague devastating Boston in colonial America. Mather demonstrated the effectiveness of the first available virus vaccine and advocated for its adoption even in the face of death threats.

So, today, we’ll conclude our faith-based school series as each talks about what’s new on its contemporary campus and how it is coping with the modern scourge of COVID-19.

Jennifer Lopez leads Texas City’s Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, 1600 Ninth Ave. N. It welcomes pre-K 3 through eighth-grade students.

“We are a safe school home for these uncertain times,” Lopez said. “We are adding air purifiers to all the classrooms soon. We’re a clean, nurturing school with less than 15 students in each classroom.”

Although a Catholic school, Fatima welcomes all denominations and faiths, Lopez added.

In an echo of colonial days, Lopez said, “We teach our scholars how to be strong disciples of Christ all while promoting and providing advanced learning and individualized curriculum.”

Although the outside of the school looks the same, the curriculum has been changed across the board, she said.

“It is now completely aligned with the public school’s TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, a statewide, standardized test), and we now offer iPad and laptop computers for all our students." Lopez said. "Our curriculum also has an online component so that homework and remote learning is easy.”

Across the freeway in La Marque, Cindy Hallam heads Abundant Life Christian School, a ministry of one of the county’s largest churches.

She said the school was serious about infection control.

“We are continuing with more rigorous sanitation, more frequent cleaning of desks and all common spaces,” Hallam said. “We encourage students to wash their hands more often and have installed an extra hand-washing sink in our cafeteria area.

"We also have hand sanitizer at all classroom entrances and main entrances," she said. "Teachers have access to alcohol wipes, and we will begin temperature checks again each morning. Lastly, all our students have their own personal set of supplies, so that we minimize sharing."

Masks are not required here, but students and teachers may wear them. Classrooms are generally spacious. Classroom air purifiers have been ordered but, given the pressure from the pandemic, have yet to arrive.

“We’ve added six new teachers this year,” Hallam said. “Three of those were for new classes that we added. In the past, we had combined grade levels in elementary, but with growth in enrollment, we were able to separate our elementary grades. That is an exciting change for us.

"We were also able to hire an inclusion teacher to assist students in areas of need," she said. "This is something I have hoped to achieve for a few years, so I am very excited to add this staff member. We have also included a new music program and hope to have our athletics as well, soon.”

Abundant Life Christian School is a pre-K 3 though 12th-grade campus located at 5130 Hallam Road.

Helping: No one is quicker to help hurricane victims than houses of worship that have previously suffered. But some ways to assist are better than others. Some well-intentioned, but unsought, gifts might actually hurt.

We don’t have the answers but recommend reading this free, online article at Christianity Today’s website, “How not to bring relief after Hurricane Ida.”

Among these easily found suggestions we found, “Don’t be a spontaneous, unaffiliated volunteer” and “Don’t give unsolicited goods.”

Perhaps the most important advice may be to continue such support long after other helpers have moved on to new disaster sites. The Daily News has noted how the local 4B Disaster Response Network, which includes a number of area churches, continues to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey some four years after that storm.

The magazine story can be found by simply pasting its title into a web search query.

Next week in Our Faith: We’ll preview the celebration of some of our island’s most historic and beloved churches, including one that will turn 175 next year.

Rick Cousins can be reached at rick.cousins@galvnews.com.

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