Insider Alert - February 2, 2021
February 2, 2021

Good afternoon St. Cecilia Families, Faculty, and Staff. I hope this finds you all well.

A few weeks ago I sent out a video and communicated through the Insider a few updates to our Returning to School Plan and the protocols we have implemented to keep our community safe and keep students in school. Thank you for your attention to the details and for doing your part to support our efforts.

This second semester has seen challenges for our learning environment like no other time in history. Due to our strict quarantine policy, we have seen record numbers of students learning from home as well as a significant number of teachers teaching from home. The realities of teaching during a pandemic have affected classroom structure, routines, and management; not to mention teacher workload, preparation, and well-being.

Due to staff/substitute shortages, teachers have consistently had their planning and break periods cut short or eliminated, leading to mental wellness challenges, significant home preparation, and frequent disruption of planning. Ancillary classes have been canceled or curtailed, and a rotation of different subs has created a drastic challenge for continuity of curricular quality. Numerous students have found themselves in quarantine multiple times this year, and the school’s shift to focus on in-person learning over remote learning (while still supporting remote learners) has led to a dichotomy in quality and expectations for in-person and remote learners which are becoming more exacerbated by the day.

While we have kept the health and safety of our community at the forefront, and are confident of our cleaning and sanitizing protocols, our biggest concern remains staffing and quality of curricular delivery. As more and more schools around the Houston area are reactively closing their doors and moving to an emergency remote learning situation, our goal remains keeping students and teachers on campus where we know teaching and learning are best.

As such, I am announcing two modifications to our school calendar with the express intention of ensuring a continuation of high-quality instruction, engaged learning, and the safety of our community.
Modified Spring Schedule
Remote Learning Days:
There will be four all-school remote learning days. These remote learning days will be for all St. Cecilia students in grades PK3 - 8. Depending on the grade level, students may engage in live synchronous lessons, but should also expect to engage in asynchronous learning activities at home. The purpose of these days is to provide teachers and staff with additional time resources for planning their daily classes and for leveraging their in-person planning to their remote learning students; and to mitigate the effects of stress, anxiety, and concern for personal safety among the staff and student community. The four remote learning days will be:
  • Friday, Feb. 19
  • Friday, Mar. 12
  • Friday, Apr. 16
  • Friday, May 14

Remote Learning Week:
The week after Spring Break, March 22 - 26 will be a remote learning week for all St. Cecilia students in grades PK3 - 8. Upon return from Christmas break, we experienced a surge in the number of students testing positive and coming into close contact with individuals having tested positive. While we still have not experienced any student to student spread on campus that we are aware of, this led to a significant number of students and teachers being off-campus in the month of January. Our hope is to mitigate a similar situation by proactively instituting remote learning for all students that week after Spring Break. We know other Catholic schools took this approach upon return from Christmas break with favorable results. We hope this remote learning week will give families and students the opportunity to travel or to visit family over Spring Break while also allowing for a period of self-quarantine before returning to school.

The remote learning expectations will be further and more clearly explained by your child’s teacher(s), however, you can expect your child to be engaged in synchronous and asynchronous learning throughout that week.

We understand the burden this will place on families and we are not taking this decision lightly. In these unprecedented times, we are once again humbly seeking the support and understanding of our families as we navigate the challenges we face to keep our students and teachers safe, well, and focused on the teaching and learning we expect at St. Cecilia Catholic School.
COVID Protocols Quarantine Updates
In addition, after careful review of our COVID policies and consultation with the Harris County Health Department and the physicians on our Health & Safety Committee, we are announcing the following modifications to our protocols:

Quarantine Policy:
  • Family members of students with a close contact exposure happening at St. Cecilia do NOT need to quarantine, unless the student with the close contact tests positive or is unable to isolate. 
  1. This means, if your family can create conditions to isolate the close contact exposure within your household, then siblings may attend school. 
  • This updated policy aligns with current research and science regarding the spread of coronavirus amongst children and in schools and will allow us to keep many more students and teachers on campus where we know teaching and learning are best.

Return to School Policy:
  • When a student has had close contact exposure to a positive case the student may return to school 10 days after the last close contact - with a negative PCR test taken on day 8 of close contact, provided that the student has had no symptoms and no additional close contact.
  • This updated policy also allows us to get students and teachers back on campus more quickly where we know teaching and learning are best.

In addition to these updated protocols, I cannot impress upon you enough how important it is for you to follow our protocols and communicate with the school. Our goal here is to keep ALL of our students ON CAMPUS. I want to thank the vast majority of you who have been diligent in following our protocols and keeping our community safe. However, when protocols are not followed, when close contacts are not communicated to the school, or when students are sent to school after having tested positive, or when close family members are being tested it can put all of our students at risk. When one student tests positive shortly after being on campus it creates a ripple effect that affects multiple families and even teachers. Thanks to our policies and protocols, we have not yet had any spread here on campus that we are aware of. However, our pressure point for pivoting to remote learning for all or even canceling classes will be the number of students and teachers that we are able to have on campus. The more students and teachers we can keep on campus, the more able we are to keep ALL of our students on campus.

Thank you for your continued cooperation and understanding. Our community is truly doing a remarkable job of keeping each other safe. Let us continue this last push to get ourselves over the hump and keep our students in school. 

I pray for health and peace for you and all of your families.

Thank you and God bless you all. St. Cecilia, Pray for us!

Principal Jeff Matthews
Our mission at St Cecilia Catholic School is the ongoing Catholic formation and education of the whole child in mind, heart, and spirit, in preparation for an adult life of commitment and service.