First, we want to thank you for your continued support and patience as we navigate these challenging times. We were excited to receive a great response from our families following last week’s update on the upcoming school year. After another week of planning from our dedicated leadership team, we have more updates for our families.
 
As a reminder, the three options that were presented last week were the following:
  • Cohort model - 100% of students return to school and are kept in cohorts based on grade level, which allows us to reduce potential transmission, increase our ability to control the spread and limit the need to disrupt learning if a student contracts COVID-19.
  • Hybrid model - A portion of the student population comes to school for in-person learning while the remainder of students participate in synchronous (live and conducted via videoconferencing) remote learning, with an alternating schedule so that all students still receive in-person instruction. This allows us to incorporate our excellent remote learning platform while maximizing students’ classroom experience.
  • Remote learning model - 100% of students participate in our eLearning, which consists of a blend of sessions that are synchronous (live and conducted via videoconferencing) and asynchronous (work that is completed offline). We achieved a lot of success with this model at the end of last school year - including features on WBBM News Radio and NBC Chicago - and are confident should we be required to implement it once again.
 
After thoroughly reviewing each of these models, our current plan is to begin the 2020-21 school year in a hybrid model, with hopes of transitioning to a full 100% model by Spring if the landscape surrounding the pandemic improves.
 
The hybrid model provides several benefits in regards to both your child’s education and safety, and the safety of our faculty and staff, especially teachers. Academically, it allows us to provide students a blend of in-person and synchronous remote instruction five days each week. Through our alternating cohorts, we remain committed to separating the students in wings by grade levels. In doing so, we will be able to trace and isolate more easily in the result of a positive case of COVID-19. It also allows us to transition to full in-person attendance via the cohort model more easily, once this is appropriate. 

About the School Week 
In the hybrid model, students will be further divided into two groups (Black and Gold). Students will follow the rotation below. In this rotation, the listed groups will have in-person instruction for core classes on the days listed. On unlisted days, students will still follow their normal class schedule and receive live, synchronous instruction via remote learning from home:

Week 1:
Monday - Black
Tuesday - Black
Wednesday - Black
Thursday - Gold
Friday - Gold

Week 2:
Monday - Black
Tuesday - Black
Wednesday - Gold
Thursday - Gold
Friday - Gold

Normal attendance will still be taken on days where students are learning remotely.

By implementing this model, we not only separated our entire school into four wings by grade level, but also minimized the size of each class by assigning the Black and Gold groups. As a result, this model breaks our school into 8 cohorts.

This model has many benefits. From a safety perspective, It allows us to further mitigate the potential for exposure by essentially cutting class sizes in half (please note that not all classes will be split evenly in half to accommodate different schedules). It also allows students to remain physically distant easier, as there will be less bodies in the classroom on a given day. Academically, it allows teachers and students to maximize in-person time and provides a level of continuity as students will receive face-to-face instruction for up to 3 days consecutively. 

Logistically, parents will also have a more consistent schedule to plan for transportation. For example, a parent whose child is in the Black group will know that they have to account for transportation every Monday and Tuesday, and every other Wednesday. Additionally, in the event of a positive case, the live streamed classes ensure that students won’t miss any class should they have to be quarantined.

Frequently Asked Questions from Last Week
Q: My child has a medical condition. Can they do full time remote learning?
Yes, students with medical conditions will be allowed to participate in full time remote learning. We will provide more information on this in the coming weeks.

Q: Will all students be coming to and leaving school at the same time?
A: Yes, although the amount of students that your child will potentially encounter will be dramatically decreased because each grade level will enter the school through their specific wing. Additionally, through our Black and Gold groupings, the amount of students coming to school on a given day is further decreased.

Q: How can students properly physical distance in class?
A: We are taking measures to ensure that classroom space will be maximized and desks will be spread out to meet CDC guidance. Additionally, through our Black and Gold groupings, the amount of students in a specific class is further decreased, which provides more space for students to spread out.

Q: Will there be a tuition discount in the event that students are not 100% in the building?
A: We are proud to offer our families the most affordable Catholic education among our peers, as our tuition is over $3,000 more affordable than the average Catholic high school in the southland. Additionally, our teachers are still working just as hard, if not harder, in remote learning to ensure that your child is receiving an unmatched learning experience. Now more than ever, tuition dollars are critical in compensating our teachers for the amazing job they are doing. On top of this, we have invested heavily in equipment (temperature monitoring devices, security cameras and more) and building modifications (added two new classrooms and created an expanded nursing space) to ensure the health and safety of our students. With all of this considered, we will not be providing a tuition discount to our families. While we understand the decisions and sacrifices our parents have to make to provide their children an education, we provide our families more value than any other high school in the area.

We look forward to continuing to provide open communication with our parents over the next few weeks as we prepare for the upcoming school year. If you have any questions, please feel free to send them to vikings@stlaurence.com.