Tents are cropping up on school lawns for outdoor classes and cafeterias are beginning to look more like classrooms as the 2020-2021 school year begins with safety protocols for COVID-19 prevention.
“The members of our Catholic school communities have worked tirelessly to ensure that required safety protocols are in place as students return to school,” said Superintendent of Schools Leisa Schulz.
Archdiocese of Louisville Catholic schools are reopening this month and are following protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health departments. Students, faculty and staff are wearing masks where in-person instruction is beginning and everyone — from the youngest learners to their eldest mentors — is expected to keep a safe distance.
“Our principals and teachers have been creative in accessing additional space on campuses and within parish communities to provide social distancing,” Schulz said.
“They have also looked creatively at school schedules to organize students into groups that stay together during the school day. For example, one school organized students who also attend after-school care together.”
“Our Catholic school educators have also produced creative videos and web sites to share specific information with students and parents. I am amazed by their creativity.”
Health and safety
Sacred Heart Model School, 3107 Lexington Road, has adopted a combination of virtual and in-person classes to lessen the number of students on campus at one time. And the school, like many in the archdiocese, has adopted other practices meant to keep students, faculty and staff at a safe distance.
Students are sitting sixfeet apart and, where that’s not possible, plexiglass partitions have been set up. This is a solution used in a number of schools.
Students are eating lunch in the classroom or outdoors. Traffic in some hallways and corridors will flow in one direction. Students will have their temperature checked before they exit their cars in the mornings. A child with a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees will be asked to go home.
The Model school and Sacred Heart Academy have also hired additional cleaning staff to work in the buildings between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to continuously clean “high touch” areas such as bathrooms, doorknobs and handrails. Students and teachers are disinfecting their desks after each class.
The Model school also has decided to bring students in “slowly to make sure policies and procedures are working,” said Allison Bayer, the school’s communications and marketing manager. Students are returning between Aug. 18 and Sept. 1.
Holy Cross High School, 5144 Dixie Highway, will be using all available space on its campus to socially distance students when they return Aug. 24. It will have an outdoor classroom under a tent and traditional cafeteria tables have been replaced with individual desks, which will be spread six feet apart. Students will have assigned seats in the cafeteria as well as the classrooms.
Katy Buerger, the school’s director of marketing and enrollment, said classes will be lived-streamed daily for the benefit of students who can’t attend in-person classes.
“In the event a family feels a student needs to stay home we’ll have that option every day,” said Buerger. “It will give them the structure of a regular school day.”
In addition, each grade level will enter and leave the building through a different door to reduce the number of students interacting in one place.
Some schools, like St. Rita School, 8709 Preston Highway, will take a hybrid approach to learning, with students doing a combination of in-person and virtual learning. St. Rita has a student body of about 280 students with about 25 to 27 students per classroom.
“It wasn’t the safest model to bring our students back into,” said principal Neil Hulsewede.
Students in kindergarten through eighth-grade will be divided into two groups, A and B, with the groups attending in-person classes twice a week on separate days and virtual learning the remainder of the days.
Hulsewede said St. Rita is also offering a childcare option for parents who have to work and can’t be at home on the days students in groups A and B are doing virtual work. Those students will be able to come to a separate part of the campus to do their work.
Fridays will be an all virtual school day for students. There’s also an option for students to attend school virtually fulltime.
Preschoolers, about 40 students, will have in-person learning Monday through Friday, he said.
Holy Spirit School, 332 Cannons Lane, returned to school Aug. 19 and the school is using all available space on campus, including art, music and meeting rooms as additional classrooms to keep students socially distanced, said Doris Swenson, the school’s principal.
But the school, like many others, is also accommodating families that aren’t comfortable returning to school.
“Families who are not comfortable have the option for their children to participate in classes via webcam,” said Swenson. Several families have selected that option with more families thinking about it, she added.