By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
“Return to learn is a moving target, and we make changes to our plans nearly daily, it seems,” said Chad Steimle, principal at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport.
He and the other principals of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Davenport are preparing for in-person classes for the 2020-21 school year, which begins this month. Some schools will offer an option for online learning. All schools will be ready to transition to hybrid or all online learning if needed.
Students in most grade levels will be required to wear face masks at the schools; teachers and staff will often wear masks and/or face shields.
At Notre Dame Catholic Schools in Burlington, classes begin Aug. 10. Each student will have a computer and will use the Canvas platform. Principal Bill Maupin said elementary students used Google Classroom and the secondary level students used Canvas last spring semester. “It was harder for parents and students to use (Google Classroom) than Canvas.” That is just one adjustment the school made for the new school year — one platform. Other adjustments: students will go directly to their classrooms, lunch times will be spread out, extra cleaning will be done, interactions will be limited and social distancing will be implemented as much as possible.
Davenport Catholic schools begin Aug. 24. “JFK is blessed with large classrooms and a large campus,” Steimle said. “We should be able to do social distancing in all of our classrooms. Teachers will ‘travel’ to students rather than students ‘traveling’ to other classrooms. This applies for specials and middle school classes. Hand sanitizer will be used often,” he said. An electrostatic sprayer will be used daily and an anti-microbial disinfectant will be used to treat surfaces every few months.
Last spring most JFK students had access to computers for remote learning. Students without computers received paper packets. This year, each student will have a computer. Grades K-2 will use iPads and grades 3-8 will use Chromebooks. This plan was in the works pre-COVID-19, Steimle said. So many schools around the country have been ordering computers that a huge back order has developed, he said.
Principal Jeanne Von Feldt of All Saints Catholic School in Davenport said grades PK-6 will have class face to face. Each grade level is being divided into three sections so each class is smaller for face-to-face learning, she said. Blended learning online and in-person will be utilized for grades 7-8.
Regina Catholic Schools begin Aug. 24. Glenn Plummer, principal of the junior/senior high school, said an online option for families will be available, but in-person is the preferred option.
Class sizes are minimized as much as possible and desks spaced out per World Health Organization (WHO) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations. Hot lunch will be provided at the junior/senior high level, without self-serve meals or salad bar. “We will utilize all available spaces, including outdoors,” he said. Classrooms will have cleaning supplies available for students and teachers to clean high-touch areas.
Regina’s upper level students have Chromebooks. All internet access issues were addressed this past spring. “We will re-evaluate access issues in order to provide access to those who do not have it or have less than desirable access,” Plummer said.
Prince of Peace Catholic Schools in Clinton start classes Aug. 24. Development Director Karen Witt said the school will provide masks for students as they enter the school each day. When students leave, they will turn in their mask and the school will launder them. “Students can wear masks from home.”
The staff is working on social distancing for larger classes — a work in progress. Finalizing plans for lunch are in the works, too. “Our experience in the spring (doing remote learning) has taught us much about family technology needs. We are sending out a family survey to update that information. We provided computers to those who needed them.” The school is ready to use digital learning platforms as it did in the spring. “There were some bumps in the road this past spring, but all challenges were met,” Witt said.
Michael Sheerin, principal at Holy Trinity Elementary in West Point and chief administrative officer, said parents and students will have appointments starting Aug. 17 to review the protocols for the official start of school Aug. 24.
To allow for social distancing, all rooms were stripped of excess storage, he noted. For gym class, more controlled activities with limited exertion such as Tai Chi and line dancing will be taught. Multiple lunch and recess times are staggered with time inside and outside and use of the gym when needed.
“All students have an iPad or Macbook Air. We have added extended Wi-Fi availability beyond school buildings, providing hotspots on a case by case basis” if the need exists to go to remote learning, he said. “We plan on practicing online delivery with F2F immediately. There is also some training for parents with video tutorials, a dedicated class schedule daily for students and recorded lessons for after hours.”