July 20, 2020 
Dear St. Pius X Community:

As educators, we have always believed that there is no substitute for the relationship between teachers and their students and the ability to exchange ideas in a dialogue-type relationship.  That belief has solidified since March 15 when we closed the doors to the school and virtual learning began. It quickly became evident how disorienting teaching and learning are when attempted from a distance and not peer-to-peer.   

Our belief was also validated by the input you provided on the survey indicating how negative the loss of personal contact with teachers and friends was for your children. Taking that input to heart, we have worked all summer to prepare for numerous contingencies including, if needed, another round of virtual learning.  We learned a lot last spring, and feel we are in a much better position to deliver a high-quality education either in person or as a virtual learning environment.  

As we embark on the journey that will be the 2020-2021 school year, we want you to know that we are committed to implementing a careful plan that creates and maintains the highest levels of academic and safety standards for all. We will begin on August 12 with a regular, in-person school schedule.  

The purpose of this correspondence is to share with you our current plans for the opening of school in August. 

We have created FAQs, which you can find toward the end of this email. We know there will be many more questions as we progress toward the opening of school.  Please send your questions to questions@spx.org and we will get answers out as quickly as possible via the school's COVID-19 page

As we did in the spring, we will continue to monitor our progress and make improvements as we go.  We ALL have the same goal:  to deliver and receive the highest quality education possible for our students in the safest environment possible.

Let's all do what we do best at St. Pius X: pray for a successful year for the entire St. Pius X Family.  We've certainly been planning for it.  We look forward to seeing you soon.  
Like you, we are all looking forward to seeing everyone "in-person" and enjoying the benefits of a St. Pius X experience.  We look forward to having an outstanding school year.  

Domini Sumus -- "We Are the Lord's."

Sincerely,

Steve Spellman
President

Edye Simpson
Principal

The Plan for Academics
As leaders of the school, we have the responsibility for the safety and well-being of our entire St. Pius X family. With 1,114 students and 143 adults with demographics ranging from age 14 to near retirement, we must be careful to establish and provide environments that are both safe and healthy, a responsibility we feel is our number one priority.  We expect that your family will also take this responsibility seriously and work within your own family to lessen your potential exposure to COVID-19 which will in turn lessen the SPX community's exposure to the virus.

We must be flexible and adaptable in the face of the ever-changing health crisis.  The following plans have been developed for any contingency.

Plan A
This plan is designed for regular school operations with all students and faculty back on campus for what will continue to be an exemplary educational experience at St. Pius X.  

Plan B
Should there be mandates issued from the various governmental or health agencies that we would have to limit the number of students we have on our campus at one time, we have divided the school into two groups: Group A and Group B.  Taking into account the inconvenience for families and with the area's transportation issues, the division keeps families intact.  Group A includes families with last names from A to K.  Group B includes families with last names from L to Z.  This division conveniently divides the school into two similar size groups, allowing us to meet the social distancing mandates that are currently imposed.  

Group A would come to school for a regular school day on Mondays and Thursdays for in-person teaching and learning.  Group B would attend in-person on Tuesdays and Fridays. On the corresponding days when students are not at school, they will engage in online learning at home.

Wednesday would be a virtual day for everyone as this would provide time for the school to be deeply cleaned and sanitized.  

Over the summer we have invested heavily in teacher staff development offerings including programs that enhance student-to-teacher contact. In addition, we purchased technology equipment that allows us to deliver real-time instruction to both students in the classroom and those learning concurrently at home. This equipment was ordered early in June and to date, we are still waiting on it to arrive. We are cognizant of the fact that every school in America is likely also awaiting delivery of similar devices.  As the equipment arrives (likely in stages), we will prioritize classrooms with the greatest need with the plan to have everyone on board as soon as possible.  We ask for your patience as we get things in place.

Plan C
Plan C would be activated should a mandate be issued that due to the increasing occurrence and/or severity of the virus, we would have to resort to a totally virtual environment, similar to what we experienced in the spring.  

Should this level of environment be mandated, we are confident that with the additional equipment we have invested in, coupled with increased faculty professional development, we will be able to keep the students engaged with the demands of the curriculum while remaining in contact socially with their teachers and peers.  Additionally, our new Advisories program will be a weekly implementation in a full-virtual school setting, adding an additional level of personal interaction.

The School Environment: 
   The Safety and Well Being of All
As the arrival of the Coronavirus became imminent, we began to take steps on campus to protect our students.  We secured electrostatic sprayers in order to disinfect classrooms and shared spaces on a regular basis.  UV lights were installed in the HVAC systems of higher risk areas, like the Donnellan Center locker rooms and weight room, to help combat bacteria and viruses in the air.  We always do routine preventative maintenance on all of our HVAC systems, and new filters are now being installed across campus prior to our return to school.  

Hand sanitizing stations are available at every entrance to the school, and hand sanitizer bottles are in every classroom.  Our cleaning crew will increase the frequency of cleaning high touch areas on campus and restrooms in particular.  We will have social distancing floor decals throughout the hallways to remind students to spread out and to always walk on the "right" side of the hallways in order to stay separated from those walking in the other direction.  Of course, throughout the entire day, everyone will be expected to wear a mask.  Teachers will have wipes for classroom desks to be cleaned throughout the day.  Water fountains will not be accessible, except to use the bottle refill feature, which is touchless.  Please make sure that your student has a clear (non-colored), refillable, water bottle to use during the school day.  The Roar Store carries school regulation water bottles, but a disposable Dasani bottle (for example) can work just as well.

Classrooms will adjust desks to the greatest social distancing extent possible while limiting face to face interactions by having all desk/tables facing in the same direction. 

In the cafeteria, SAGE has done an incredible job to prepare for safe lunches.  All items will be prepackaged, but students will still be able to have hot lunches in addition to grab-and-go sandwiches or salads.  Access into the kitchen will be carefully monitored, with everyone abiding by safe distancing protocols.  A new safety feature has been added as students will now be able to show their ID with a barcode to scan for payment, eliminating the need to touch the cashier's keypad.  All food stations will be thoroughly cleaned after each group has made its way through the kitchen. In order to meet social-distancing requirements, the number of tables in the cafeteria will be reduced and students will be seated in a staggered fashion. The gym, front plaza, Young Center lobby, and the Senior courtyard will also be areas where students can safely eat.  We expect that the students will self-select seating areas to allow for appropriate distancing for eating and socializing at lunch. These areas will be monitored throughout all lunches.

Careful cleaning procedures have also been put in place.  We will continue to utilize our electrostatic sprayers with EPA-approved, safe disinfectant throughout the school on a daily basis.

What Can You Do To Help
The beauty of St. Pius X is the connections each of us makes with the school, creating a much-desired family environment.  As mentioned earlier, we have 1,114 students and 143 faculty members that all need to be protected.  It will take each of us to ensure a healthy environment for everyone and to be vigilant in adhering to consistent wellness practices.  Until we have a medical breakthrough in vaccination or treatment, our planning must allow us to address every issue.  As a family, we are asking you to partner with us in keeping our school safe for everyone by asking you to do the following:
  • Prior to school each morning, review each of the symptoms below. It is imperative that your Pius student has NOT experienced any of the following symptoms in the past 48 hours* 
    • Fever greater than 100°F  
    • Body aches  
    • Chills/shaking  
    • Congestion that differs from your typical seasonal allergies  
    • Cough  
    • Vomiting  
    • Diarrhea  
    • Fatigue  
    • Loss of smell/taste  
    • Rash  
    • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing  
    • Sore throat
*If your Pius student has taken medication to address any of these symptoms, he/she must be medication-free for 48 hours before a return to school can be considered. If your Pius student has a documented preexisting condition (i.e. allergies), you should take that into account as you review the above symptoms.
  • If any of the above are present, your student must STAY HOME.  
  • Entry into the school each day will be contingent on a temperature check. Individuals with temperatures at or over 100.0 will not be allowed into the building.  
  • Make sure your student has a mask to wear each day. The school will provide one washable, reusable mask for each student at the beginning of the school year.  If a student forgets his/her mask, we will provide a disposable mask for that day.  (Please review the SPX student handbook for daily mask requirements with the uniform.)
  • NOTE:  Masks are a requirement at all times, except when drinking water, eating lunch, or when physical distancing (6' or greater) is possible.  Then, students may be instructed by the faculty that it is safe to remove their masks. Outside of these three scenarios, no student is allowed to remove his/her mask without consent.  Detentions and/or other disciplinary penalties will apply for failure to comply with the mask requirements and regulations.
  • The proper wearing of the mask is one that should fit snugly against the side of the face and secure over the nose, mouth, and under the chin.  See CDC Guidelines (CDC.gov) for washing/drying instructions.  

St. Pius X will impart daily reminders regarding the practice of effective hygiene.

Frequently Asked Questions
We know there will be many questions and we have developed this section to help answer those. If you have additional questions, please submit them to questions@spx.org and we will add them to these FAQs. For reference, this email can be found on the school's COVID-19 page

What is the school going to do if we have medically fragile students, or I do not want my child to attend school in person? 
If a family has a medically fragile child, or if a parent does not want their child to attend school in person, that family may choose virtual learning at this time.  As stated earlier, we have planned for such a situation and are currently waiting for new equipment to arrive in order to more fully implement virtual learning for those students who must take advantage of it.
  
If we choose to keep our student(s) at home, will they have to follow the same schedule in terms of class times?
As long as we have in-person classes for some or all of our students, all at-home students will have to follow their regularly scheduled classes by class period.  At-home students will be expected to be signed in and present virtually at the start of each class no different than students in-person are expected to be present by the tardy bell each class period.

Will there be consistent expectations of what digital teaching looks like and how much time students will be engaged on a daily basis? 
Given the unprecedented task thrust on educators in the spring to totally reinvent the delivery system of American education, I was proud of our teachers and their ability to continue to maintain our high standards.  Was it perfect?  No, but we have learned much and worked over the summer to design staff development opportunities focused on augmenting their teaching toolbox, both digitally and in-person. We believe we are in a far better position today to provide our students a quality education in either format. 

Can you provide a clear example of what the digital platform will look like should it have to be utilized? Will it be the same as spring?
Our learning management system, PowerSchool Learning, will continue to be the hub for digital learning. Applying the lessons we learned from the spring and the staff development opportunities offered this summer along with some targeted pre-planning sessions for the faculty, teachers will be asked to provide more live (synchronous) instruction in addition to written and recorded (asynchronous) lessons.  This means the students will be required to participate regularly in digital instruction on a specific schedule with their teachers (synchronous learning) and also complete activities and assignments on their own time to meet deadlines (asynchronous learning).  We have asked teachers to deliver more live learning opportunities using video conferencing platforms such as ZOOM and Google Meet.

Are there any courses that will not be offered (chorus, PE etc) due to current mandates? 
At this time, we do not know of any courses that we will not offer.  

What about athletics? 
Athletic decisions will be made in conjunction with the Archdiocese and the Georgia High School Association (GHSA).  We are in constant contact with and monitor their decisions with keen interest.  At this time, all activities will proceed as normal.
  
What will become of after school activities such as sports and clubs?
As mentioned above, Athletic decisions will be made in conjunction with the Archdiocese and the Georgia High School Association (GHSA).  All other activities, including clubs, will proceed as normal at the present time. 
 
Will the recent survey sent from Principal Simpson, dated July 15, change any of the current plans?
No, that survey was distributed to gather basic information about the thoughts of parents at that point in time about returning to school, to gauge those with concerns about medical fragility, or those simply considering keeping their students at home out of an abundance of caution with the Coronavirus.  As we worked on developing multiple contingencies, especially hybrid schedules, we needed to determine the best way to divide the school into groups. This data helped us determine the numerical division of the school into two groups: A and B.
 
Is Pius still considering the B and C plans presented in the one-page fact sheet sent on June 26, 2020?
Yes, hopefully, this was answered previously in this correspondence.

If a teacher shows signs of COVID-19 and has to be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days, will there be a qualified substitute available?
This is a question that every school in the state is dealing with.  We have contacted our most consistent and capable substitutes and most have expressed a desire to return.  We hope we will not need to call in substitutes. This is a great example of why we are trying our best to maintain a safe and healthy environment with the wearing of masks and the frequent sanitization of the building and the many other precautions we are taking 

If a student shows signs of COVID-19 and has to be quarantined for a minimum of 14 days, will they be able to access their classes online so as to not fall behind?
Yes, the new virtual technology equipment will allow us to continue to serve students who become ill and must learn from home. This is a perfect example as to why we spent an inordinate amount of money on new technology equipment so that both students and teachers could stay current with academic instruction.  

How would social distancing be handled in the hallways during class changes?
Most high schools are struggling with this, as students have to change classes multiple times throughout the day.  Our current position is that we will have social distancing floor decals throughout the hallways to remind students to keep spread out and to always walk on the "right" side of the hallways in order to stay separated from those walking in the other direction.  Of course, throughout the entire day, everyone will be required to wear a mask. 

Will taking the temperature of 1100+ students daily mean starting school earlier or later to accommodate this procedure?
No, we have ordered enough fast reading temperature devices and with numerous teachers assigned to designated doors around the campus, we should be able to move the students into the building fairly quickly. We will continually review these procedures to ensure this system is working properly.

Will I be informed if my student comes in contact with another individual at school that subsequently tests positive?
Health Department guidance requires that all close contacts be notified of a positive case. This means that those within a class will be automatically notified. In notifying, the school will protect the identity of the individual who tested positive, following all FERPA and HIPAA regulations.

Will buildings be closed down for deep cleaning whenever there's a positive case?
The school will follow Health Department guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing the appropriate areas of the school in the event of a COVID-19 positive test.

How will you handle students who become sick during school?
The school clinic will continue to serve students who feel ill at school. We will utilize a separate area for students who exhibit possible COVID-19 symptoms. Students will be socially distanced and monitored in that area while parents are contacted to pick them up. Parents must pick their child up within one hour of receiving a call from the school regardless of symptoms in order to maintain the safest environment possible. 

This question emphasizes the need to correctly answer the screening questions in your homes prior to leaving for school.  If a child is sick, or exhibiting any of the symptoms listed,  please keep them at home.  

If the number of COVID cases continues to rise, would St. Pius X revert back to an  all virtual format?
Yes, if conditions continue to rise and the governor, health agencies, and local jurisdictions call for school closures, we would more than likely have to return to an all virtual environment.  
St. Pius X Catholic High School
2674 Johnson Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30345