Reopening plans have been announced for the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York. This includes Most Precious Blood in Walden.
Since April, the Catholic Schools Reopening Council has worked to prepare guidance that will ensure the safe return of students, teachers and staff to school buildings. The plans that have been made are representative of the most recent guidance from government, state and local health officials, which is changing continually. As guidance changes, plans will be updated.
Last month the Archdiocese released a list of Catholic Schools that would be closed permanently due to a substantial decline in enrollment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among these is the Divine Mercy School in New Windsor.
The catholic schools are committed to opening schools for five days a week for in-school instruction for all students, ensuring social distancing can safely be maintained in buildings under the direct supervision of a teacher. For some buildings or class sizes that cannot accommodate all students socially distanced for a full five days, plans will be created by the principal using an alternating day/week cycle.
“It is now time to return to our ‘homes’ and move forward together, reinvigorating our Catholic school buildings with the return of our students,” said Superintendent of Schools Michael Deegan.
Entering school will look different than years past. Social distancing markers and signs will be prominently displayed. Markers will be placed along the sidewalk, fence, play yard and parking lot around the front doors. Signs will indicate six-foot distances and have arrows pointing toward the screening area.
Temperature screening and screening questions will be taken as each staff member and student enter the building. Students and staff must wear face masks and keep appropriate social distancing when in the school building. Schools will also have surgical masks available for students and staff as needed.
Each school will designate a “Guardian Angel” room (isolation room) where students and staff with COVID-19 symptoms are to be placed while they await pick-up and safe exit from the building. Persons with fevers of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or above or who are exhibiting other signs of illness shall not be admitted to the school.
All students in grades Kindergarten through eight will receive five days of classroom instruction. The instruction will be delivered in-person or remotely through Zoom.
In school, young students will be trained to work in their center-based classrooms safely, following social distancing as well as health and safety routines, which will be practiced with support throughout the day. Instructional models will be developmentally appropriate and flexible to meet the needs of families who support their children’s learning at home.
Meals will be served in the classroom initially. In the second reopening stage, meals will be available in the cafeteria provided proper social distancing and sanitization are maintained. Students will be permitted to bring their own water and meals, however sharing will not be permitted. Individual snacks must be brought from home; vending machines will not be operable.
Signage will be installed within the schools as well. Social distancing reminders as well as one-way hallways and stairs will promote safety. There will also be sanitizing stations.
Schools have technology which will enable on-site and remote learning. Wi-Fi, SMART Boards and Chromebooks will be available in class. Classrooms will also be equipped with the technology necessary to provide live sessions via Zoom, so that all students can experience the same class simultaneously.
During the school day, clear protocols will be in place to clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at least daily and as practicable, regularly throughout the day. Trained custodial staff will be on hand to maintain cleanliness in high-traffic areas.
Classrooms will be disinfected at the end of each day by custodial staff, who will be equipped with proper protective equipment.
Deegan is proud of the work that the Reopening Council has done during this unprecedented time.
“I’m grateful to the Catholic Schools Reopening Council for their work in assembling this manual and to the principals and teachers who will implement it so that our students can return safely, healthily and happily,” he said.