St. Catharine School Families:

First and foremost, I want all of you to know that I am praying for every student and parent in our St. Catharine School community. I understand the wide range of emotions everyone is feeling and the unpredictability of the levels of apprehension and anxiety over these past few weeks.
Whether you are excited about your children returning to school, worried about sending your children back, or frustrated about your ability to acquire childcare while working consistently and how school will look like in the fall; your feelings are valid .

Please know that you are not alone in your questions about schools opening… or not opening.

No matter what challenges we face this year, we will face them together. There will undoubtedly need to be more sacrifice for everyone. The ability to sacrifice for the future of our school and the good of the entire school community is what sets this school apart. There are three reasons why we will get through this.

1.)   This is temporary. Things will get back to a more normal reality. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
2.)   These times may seem uncertain, but all times are uncertain. This is all part of God’s plan for us. (Jerimiah 29:11)
3.)   We will be more humble, more resilient, and more grateful because of what we are going through now. (Joshua 1:9)

“Nothing great is ever achieved without much enduring.” – St. Catherine of -Siena

Regardless of how we return to school, we will ensure that the culture and climate of our school will:

  • Have the recommended health and safety procedures and protocols in place.
  • Be conducive to student-centered, rigorous learning that addresses the needs of all students.
  • Be inviting for students to develop a deeper, authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.

St. Catharine School will continue to be dedicated to serving our school community by developing our students spiritually, academically, and morally. Our mission has not changed. The Holy Spirit will always be with us and we will be there for each other. This is why we will get through this.

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31

Returning to School
The Diocese of Columbus Office of Catholic Schools has assigned a 3-Tier approach in moving forward with the 2020-2021 school year.

Tier 1 - Normal Operations: Buildings fully opened with in-person instruction and safety protocols

Tier 2 - Blended Learning: A combination of in-person and distance learning with safety precautions
Tier 3 - Distance Learning: Full remote, online instruction with buildings closed
St. Catharine School Re-Opening Plan Summary
  • St. Catharine School will not be starting the school year with all students in the building for a full school day. A detailed rationale is listed below.
  • St. Catharine School will be starting the school year in a Tier 2, blended learning model, where students will spend half of their day attending a morning or afternoon in-school session and the other half of their day learning from home. Siblings in a family will not be separated.
  • St. Catharine School can transition from a blended learning model to normal operations model when CDC guidelines are relaxed, specifically the 6ft social distancing recommendation, with approval from the Diocese of Columbus
  • St. Catharine School can transition to a distance learning model if the State of Ohio closes school buildings and face-to-face instruction is not possible.
  • Transitions between these Tiers will provide as much time as possible for teachers and parents to adapt accordingly.
  • The quality and integrity of Catholic education will be maintained regardless of format. Parents can expect the value and quality we know you deserve on both faith formation and academic excellence.
2020-2021 Important Dates
Week of August 24th
This will be a Teacher Planning and Preparation Week. This will be an important week for staff collaboration, professional development, and final preparation for the start of the school year.

Week of August 31st
Phase-In Period. Students will return to school in a staggered start fashion, in smaller groups, either by grades, grade bands, or split groups between one and two days this week. This will give our teachers and staff the opportunity to introduce important safety procedures, review academic and behavioral expectations, and administer brief assessments to inform future instruction.

Tuesday, September 8 th
First Day of School
2020-2021 Spring Break
Although Spring Break for all Franklin County Diocese of Columbus Schools was originally scheduled for the week after Easter, this is no longer the case. After being strongly recommended by the Office of Catholic Schools and to keep consistent with several Diocesan High Schools, Spring break will now be the Week of March 15 th though the 19 th .
Last day of school before Spring Break:   Friday, March 12 th
First day back from Spring Break:            Monday, March 22 nd
Last day of school before Easter Break:  Wednesday, March 31 st
First day back from Easter Break:           Tuesday, April 6th          
Friday, June 4 th
Last Day of School
Health & Safety Summary
The Ohio Department of Education with the cooperation of the Ohio Department of Health published COVID-19 Health & Prevention Guidance for Ohio K-12 Schools . Their recommendations can be summarized into 5 distinct directives.
Vigilantly Assess for Symptoms
Temperature checks should be conducted at home. Students with COVID-19 symptoms will be isolated and sent home.

Wash & Sanitize Hands to Prevent Spread
Along with diligent hand-washing protocols, hand-sanitizing stations have been installed in every classroom

Thoroughly Clean & Sanitize School Environment to Limit the Spread on Shared Surfaces
School will be cleaned and sanitized twice daily.

Practice Social Distancing
Students will be seated and kept 6ft apart per CDC recommendations.

Implement Face Coverings Policy
All students will be required to wear masks when entering the building, in the classroom, moving in the building, and in common areas.
Tier 1 – Normal Operations
Having all students return to school in a full-time capacity, every day, was an option we were initially optimistic about and explored in great detail. Due to the most recent developments with COVID-19 cases in Ohio and after space and staff analysis, we have determined this option is not possible at this time.

Challenges with a Tier 1 Model
Staff Limitations
With two Kindergarten classes and one class per grade for 1st through 8 th -grades, we have 10 classes at St. Catharine School. In order to maintain 6-foot social distancing for students, each class will need to split into two separate rooms. By doing so, we would need double the amount of certified staff to cover all 20 sections of students. With a limited number of part-time instructional aides, this would be very difficult.
If we would decide to redistribute our specials teachers to accommodate for each group, we would still have trouble doing so due to the part-time nature of our specials teachers. 
Finally, limitations on substitute teachers combined with the high demand and small margin of staff absences, this would stress our personnel considerably.

Instructional Space
Even with the addition of several new classrooms and the parish center, the problem we face is those particular spaces are not suited for instruction, may not be in close proximity to the other group’s classroom, and may not be equipped in an appropriate manner for learning.
Limited Instruction
Although students would be in attendance for a full-school day, they would not be receiving instruction from their teachers for a full-day due to the need for each teacher to rotate between at least two groups of students.
Less Supervision
With limitations on volunteers, the distance between learning areas, and staff fulfilling multiple responsibilities, students will not be supervised to our expectations.
Length of Day
It’s been since March that students have been in school for an entire school day. This will be a difficult adjustment for students, particularly students in the primary grades. With the added responsibility of students wearing a mask, lack of movement between rooms, and adapting to the focus and pace needed during a school day, this would not be the best interest of learning.
Maximum Exposure
Although students would be divided into smaller groups in this Tier, the prolonged exposure within their particular group can be a safety concern.
Lunch for Students
There are two options for providing adequate time for lunch while maintaining reopening criteria. One would be to add several lunch periods in the cafeteria to reduce total number of students while still providing ample time to clean and disinfect between lunches. The second option would be for students to eat in their classrooms, which would require them to remove their masks.
Teacher & Staff Stress
A full day of face-to-face instruction with two groups would not allow for teachers to eat lunch away from students or have an appropriate planning period. Teachers are required both a 30 minute uninterrupted lunch and at least 150 minutes of planning periods a week. Most importantly, the additional mental and emotional stress on our teachers in this scenario is not desirable.
Tier 2: Blended Learning
There are many different variations when implementing a blended learning option. We have explored many different scenarios and spent many hours discussing the benefits and challenges of each. We understand that no blended learning plan will fit every families preferred schedule and it is impossible to make everyone happy with any blended learning model. For the reasons discussed, debated, and stated below, we are committed to a full-day (half-day learning in school, half-day learning at home), five days per week model.

Benefits of this Tier 2 Model

Daily Routine
One benefit of this particular blended learning option is families will be able to get into a daily routine. We understand that this particular model may not match with other schools and may take some adjusting in terms of scheduling. We will work with families to support these changes.

Students see Teachers everyday
Our biggest concern with our students to the social-emotional learning aspect of your child’s education, combined with the ability to check-in daily with teachers and seeing teachers face to face, will not only improve instruction at school, but make the at-home learning piece more effective and efficient.
Students see classmates everyday
There is no way to know if students have been seeing other students on a regular basis during this time. However, seeing a variety of more students in an academic setting is extremely valuable for the social and academic development of each child.

Formative Assessment
One of the most difficult challenges for teachers is the ability to check for understanding. The quicker turn-around between in-person and at-home learning will provide a more reliable feedback loop and inform future instruction for our teachers.
Lunch Logistics
The most overwhelming logistical challenge and the most significant potential for the spread of COVID, would be during lunch. This split day model alleviate that possibility. For students who have free/ reduced lunch, we will provide to-go options.
Students will still have Specials
Subjects such as Art, Gym, Library, Music, Spanish, and Technology are extremely important and developmentally beneficial for all students. Although these classes may be shorter and less frequent, they will still be part of the curriculum.
Intervention, Speech, Tutoring
With this blended learning model, intervention, speech, OT, and tutoring can occur more consistently with more frequent feedback to student, classroom teachers, and parents.
Typical Day
It is entirely too early to provide specific details concerning the day-to-day activity and scheduling for students. However, rest assured the faculty and staff are working diligently to formulate a schedule that keeps our students and staff safe, is best for meaningful instruction, and provided faith formation opportunities for all students. 

8:00 - 11:00 - Group A at School, Group B at Home
11:00 - 12:30 - Building will be cleaned and sanitized
12:30 - 3:30 - Group B at School, Group A at Home
Parent-Teacher Conferences or other Meetings
In an effort to eliminate visitors in the school building, any Parent meetings with teachers, tutors, or staff will be held via Zoom. If this is not possible, meetings will be held in the School Conference room. Parents will enter through the doors in the Monsignor Sorohan Parish center.

Distance Learning Option for families during Blended Learning
One of the most challenging situations and obstacles we are facing is families who have students and family members with health conditions during the Coronavirus pandemic.

We are looking into options to help support families who are not yet comfortable sending their children back to school, but still want positive aspects of a Catholic education including the tight-knit family support, the engagement form teachers and the faith formation aspect of St. Catharine School.

Please remember our situation is temporary and this is only a short duration of the overall development in our children. Also, keep in mind that distance learning during a Tier 2 model will look drastically different than the spring. Our teachers will be teacher full-time to two separate groups during the day. It will be very difficult to have the same engagement compared to the entire school in a distance learning model. Regardless, we will continue to work to support these families.

Tier 3: Distance Learning
In the instance that we will be required or feel the need to shift to a full-time, distance learning model, we will have several aspects that will improve the overall educational experience for our students.

1.)   Experience . We all have more experience doing distance learning and know what to expect.

2.)   More Resources . We will have a new student information system called Digital Academy . The Diocese of Columbus has made the transition to Digital Academy which will help teachers, parents, and students with a more efficient and effective online learning platform. In addition we will be utilizing other resources such as Google Classroom, SeeSaw, and other educational platforms to enhance learning.

3.)   Teacher Training . Teachers will have several professional development session to help organize ways to create assignments, initiate live class-rooms, and more effectively communicate expectations to student and parents.

4.)   Parent Information Sessions . We will be scheduling several parent information session to assist families on becoming more comfortable with utilizing the Digital Academy platform and other similar platforms.

5.)   Faith Formation. With the technological improvements with live-streaming, students will be better equipped to engage in prayer, attend virtual mass, experience adoration, and become more active in their Catholic faith.

Future Communications
Future communications will include more details of a typical day in Tier 2, more updates on improvements for Tier 3, and a parent survey concerning AM vs. PM, Latchkey, and other important data.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. - Isaiah 43:2

Yours in Christ,
Mark Watts