July 16, 2020
I hope this letter finds you well and you are having a great summer so far. Even though many things may be different, I am hoping that you are able to find joy in the small things and embrace the slower pace of the time. I wanted to reach out because although we still have 6 weeks left of summer, I imagine many of you are anxiously waiting to hear from me on what next year may look like in regards to school for your child. Although I don’t have all the answers or even all the details of our plans figured out with finesse, I am hoping this email is a starting point to get some much-needed information out to you.
Over the past several weeks, our administration and school staff have been working tirelessly to develop plans to meet the needs of our students and families in the fall. As all of us know, information regarding the safe opening of schools seems to be changing on a daily basis. The Xavier Catholic School System is monitoring these situations and recommendations so that we can be sure to offer you an educational program that is both safe and responsive to the needs of our students. I assure you that I am doing my absolute best to consider all factors involved in this ever-changing situation. The safety and well-being of the whole child remains to be my primary focus.
As we consider various scenarios for school in the fall, we really envision a couple of main options for the start of school. Our first and preferred method is “Physically Distanced Classroom Learning” in which all students will be in attendance at school five days a week while practicing social distancing and following enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols. We believe that we learn better together.
In order to accomplish this, we will be:
- Thinking creatively about the space in our building and utilizing different areas of the school as regular classroom spaces. This will enable us to keep classes small when possible and have all students socially distanced around the building.
- Utilizing staff in different ways to ensure that the needs of our students are met. Our classroom aides and other teaching staff will help us deliver a complete educational experience for all students so that students can maintain the high quality education that Xavier is known for.
- Limiting the movement around the building by having the specialists (with the exception of physical education) go from classroom to classroom to teach their classes. Students will be staying in class and grade level clusters throughout the day to limit exposure, including recess and lunch times
- Implementing new procedures for the beginning of the day. We will not be gathering the students to wait together outside at the start of the day. Rather, we will have various doors designated for student entry where students will have a quick temperature screening and then go directly to the classroom. You will be receiving more specific information about this at a later date.
- Making sure that safety precautions are taught and followed to minimize the possibility of the spread of Covid-19 to our staff and students. This will mean that we will be taking extra time for teaching protocols and reinforcing lessons about hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes, and other health measures. We will also be requiring that all students bring a cloth mask to school. The use of the masks will be determined by the age of the student and what is going on in the classroom at various times. Masks will most likely be required by all students when entering and exiting the building daily, in a common area (Mass or hallways) and when working in a small group or directly with a staff member for an extended period of time.
- Guidelines for face masks include: they do not need to follow the school uniform colors, however, they should be age appropriate and non-disruptive to the learning environment. Allowing your children the opportunity to pick out their own fun mask may help in their willingness to wear them on a daily basis.
- Asking students to bring their own personal water bottles to school with them daily, so that students do not need to utilize the public drinking fountain.
- Limiting visitors to the building and restricting volunteers at this point, in order to keep exposure at a minimum and everyone as safe and healthy as possible.
The other possibility is that schools will need to close at various times, based on local or state standards or conditions. If this is the case, we have some plans in place to make this a better educational experience for your child.
- The Xavier System has made a commitment to provide technology tools to support our students both in school and at home if we should need to go to remote learning for any portion of the upcoming year. We will now have Chromebooks available for all students from Kindergarten through Grade 8 at all times. This means that students will not need to share Chromebooks on regular school days, lessening the need to sanitize devices between uses. It also means that if we should need to move into remote learning for safety reasons, that students will have easy access to devices that they can bring home if necessary.
- We know that when we were involved in distance learning this spring, we utilized several different educational apps that were sometimes confusing for families to access from home. We will now be utilizing ClassLink which will streamline that entire process. All apps will be located in one easily accessible location.
- Teachers will be working together to provide options for remote learning, not only in the event of a shut down, but also for those students who may need to stay home for health reasons. If your child has health concerns that may make this opening plan a challenge, please reach out to me and we will work collaboratively to develop reasonable accommodations for your child.The Xavier System has always offered reasonable accommodations to students who cannot attend school for an extended period due to medical reasons and this will continue to be the case as we deal with the coronavirus.
It is our fervent hope and desire that our schools will be open for all students in the fall, but all of us play an important role in helping this to successfully happen. You can help us by doing the following:
- Avoid close contact with others who are not in your immediate family when possible.
- Teach your young children how to wash their hands.They need to be prepared to wash their hands frequently while at school. Practicing washing their hands for at least 20 seconds while at home will get your children prepared for doing this effectively when they are at school.
- Be confident when discussing plans in front of your child and do not show them your fear or concern, even despite your personal feelings on the matter. Their emotions and reactions are a reflection of ours, and we need to try to eliminate the anxiety in our children.
- Purchase a cloth face mask for your child and have them practice wearing it so that they know how to do this safely prior to school starting. Please do this in a positive and pleasant way so that they are comfortable wearing the mask and know that we are doing this to not only protect ourselves but all those around us.
- Remind your child to avoid touching their face, eyes, and mouth when in public.
- Teach young children how to blow their nose as well as sneeze and cough into a tissue or into their elbow.
- Practice opening things such as water bottles and lunch/snack items that you might be sending from home. In the past, teachers and aides often helped young children open these items at lunch. We will now want to have students be able to open these things on their own if they can do so. While we certainly will help them if need be, we would prefer to have students be the only ones touching their lunch items.
While we have been working around the clock to make sure that we are set for what next year holds, I still have a lot of planning left to do. I ask for your continued patience as this is a whole new process for all of us. I am doing my best to make sure we are looking at all the possibilities and taking all perspectives into consideration, as I continue to develop a plan that I feel is best for everyone involved. I want to extend a special note of thanks to the faculty and staff who have dedicated much of their summer break so far to planning for the year ahead. In order to accomplish our goal of being back together in school, we are asking an incredible amount from our faculty and staff. These are dedicated and passionate professionals who truly want what is best for their students, but they also have their own personal and health situations to consider. I hope that you’ll agree that the least we can do is to offer them our support and cooperation along the way. Finally, I would like to thank the parents who volunteered to participate in our Parent Focus Groups and listening sessions last month. This has truly been a team effort in planning.
Although this email is intended to be a starting point on getting some information to you, I know that there are still many unanswered questions. To help with this, Dr. John Ravizza has created a
"ReOpening Frequently Asked Questions"
document that is specific to our schools. I invite you to read through that as well, for some more detailed information. If you have any lingering questions on this topic, please do not hesitate to reach out. Our school office will also be sending out more detailed information in August.
I hope you enjoy the remaining weeks of summer. I greatly look forward to seeing you in the fall. Even though things will be different, the important things will remain the same. We will continue to work together as a Xavier family. Together we are Xavier Strong and will support each other along the way! That strong partnership will help us navigate through this uncertain time together! I will continue to hold you and your family in my prayers. I ask that you please keep the faculty and staff of the McDonald Street Campus in your prayers as well, as they faithfully prepare for the upcoming school year.
Wishing you many continued blessings,
Alena Tapelt, principal