On March 13, 2020 St. Thomas More Academy in cooperation with state agencies closed school and began distance learning in response to the COVID –19 pandemic. Class instruction continued in an online setting as the closure was extended to include the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.
As the school year ended, a task force was formed to examine the necessary requirements to reopening for the 2020-2021 school year. This group was assigned the responsibility of reviewing State and National recommendations and using these guidelines in formulating a plan for the Board of Trustees to consider.
Task Force Members:
- Kathleen Daze
- Erikka Fogleman
- Veronica Kosch
- Verona Leahy
- Kathleen Mallow-Sager
- Sophie Minaert
- Patricia Neumark
The task force met on the following dates:
- July 2, 2020
- July 9, 2020
- July 16, 2020
- July 23, 2020
- July 30, 2020
The task force researched and reported on several topics to include:
- Classroom configuration
- Health instruction
- Cleaning and disinfecting materials and protocols
- Arrival and Departure procedures/health screenings
- Classroom schedule implications
Some documents used for decision making by the task force include:
EPA List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)
Educational Links for Classroom Instruction on Health and Hygiene:
Two options were discussed for reopening, either the school would return with distance learning only or the school would reopen with a full return. A hybrid model was not feasible, nor was it seriously considered. The option that will be implemented depends on the decision made by Governor Larry Hogan, the State Superintendent of Schools, and the Maryland State Board of Education.
Changes necessary for a safer reopening:
While we wait for an effective COVID-19 vaccine, we will work to prevent the spread of the virus and contain any outbreak of the virus in our school community. STMA will make alterations to normal procedures to help ensure the health and safety of our students and staff during the pandemic. We recognize that this is a living document and that changes to our plan may be necessary in concert with local, state, and national guidelines.
Class Instructional Structure: Due to the intentionally small size of the St. Thomas More Academy community, we will reopen for in-class instruction 5 days a week and serve up to 10 students per grade. The classrooms will be configured to allow for no more than 10 students with distancing in place. We are in the process of adding two additional outdoor classroom locations that will assist with the separating of grades. We will require that students wear cloth face coverings while indoors except when eating, or napping. Each grade will remain in its respective classroom location with limited hallway movement. Specials teachers will rotate into the classroom to provide instruction. Students will have very limited contact with those in other grades.
Snack and lunches will be eaten in the classrooms.
Arrival/Departure Schedule: Teachers and staff will be expected to have a health screening before the start of the school day.
We will expand the time period for arrival in the morning. Virtual Morning Prayer will begin at 8:30 with arrival to begin at 8:10. Students will have a daily health screening outside of the school building consistent with state and local guidelines. Parents will be expected to remain in car line until their child is admitted to the school. We will need to have multiple screeners and locations for check-in. Adequate staffing will be necessary for efficiency.
School will dismiss at 3:15 daily. Dismissal procedures will allow for social distancing outside of the school building. In the event of inclement weather, students will be dismissed from their classrooms using the intercom system. To limit interaction between students in different grade levels, clubs and activities will be postponed until it is safer to gather in mixed groups.
Before and After care will still be available in limited numbers (maximum of 10 students) 6:45 – 8:10 (before care) 3:15 –6:00 (After care). Health screenings will be performed prior to students being admitted to Before Care or After Care.
First Aid Supplies: To limit the need for a student to access the Health Room, all classrooms will be supplied with First Aid kits equipped with basic supplies to include gloves and band-aids.
Lockers: Lockers in public spaces will not be utilized this school year.
Cleaning and Sanitation: It is necessary to increase the frequency and thoroughness of cleaning at the school. We will double the frequency of cleaning by the JanPro company. In addition, we will request an increase in the number of days that our independent custodian comes to the school for routine after school cleaning. During the school day we ask staff members to clean frequently touched surfaces using the food safe/child safe cleaners researched by the task force that are effective in killing Coronavirus.
Hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout the school. Restroom use will be monitored. We will have signage outside of the bathroom to indicate occupancy.
Mass and Adoration: First Friday Mass will be observed virtually this school year. The students will participate in the celebration through a virtual broadcast in their classrooms. Additional projectors have been ordered to allow for classes to participate. Adoration will not be held at STMA until it is safe for mixed groups of students to gather.
Field trips: At this time, excluding walking trips to Memorial Park, we will suspend field trips until it is deemed safe to reinstate.
Visitors: We will not be able to welcome visitors or any non-essential adults into the school. This includes parents who might normally volunteer during the school day.
Health Department Cooperation: Within the confines of confidentiality, we will work with the Frederick County Health Department and immediately notify them should we become aware of a case of Covid –19 in our school community.
Faculty and Staff needs: We anticipate that staff may need to stay home, perhaps in quarantine in the event of a personal illness, or that of a family member. To meet the potential need, additional staff and substitutes will need to be contracted.
Signs and Messaging: We will add signage and institute assigned stairwells to limit interaction between classes. Additional messaging will be posted in the school to encourage healthy habits to include hand washing, distancing, and face coverings.
Moving to the virtual platform: As the school year progresses, we acknowledge that there may be a need to move to a distance learning platform. The continuity of learning will proceed through various technologies to include synchronous and asynchronous classroom instruction. A separate Virtual Learning Task Force has been established to research and refine our instructional offerings for distance learning should the need arise.