BALTIMORE COUNTY — Catholic schools will be reopening this school year with a mix of both in-person and inline learning throughout the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
Chancellor of Education, Mr. James B. Sellinger, and Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Dr. Donna Hargens, of the Archdiocese of Baltimore released last Friday its reopening plan for its elementary and secondary schools for the 2020-21 school year. The plan provides a framework for faculty and staff to return on August 24, 2020 and for students on August 31.
The plan is designed to maximize both safety and in-person instruction and requires strict adherence to all recommended safety practices, including social distancing and the wearing of facial coverings.
Under the plan, most Catholic schools will be able to accommodate all students for five-day, in-person instruction; however, due to the size and staffing of some school facilities, some schools will begin the school year under a blended or hybrid model incorporating both in-person and remote learning.
Lawrence Callahan, President of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, said in a release that Mount Carmel has a COVID-19 reopening task force that is working to ensure the school follows the reopening guidelines set by the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
“In the near future we will schedule a Zoom meeting to assist you as we respond to all the necessary steps moving forward,” Callahan said.
Families who do not feel comfortable returning their child(ren) to in-person instruction will be able to have their child(ren) participate in remote learning from home, which will include synchronous instruction.
The Archdiocese’s reopening plan was developed with guidance and resources from state and local officials, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
It was developed by the Planning Ahead Task Force for Catholic Schools, which included healthcare professionals, counselors, educators, school leaders, parents, and experts in various applicable fields.
Feedback from parents/guardians, faculty/staff, and students informed the final version of the plan.
“Our number one priority is the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff,” Sellinger said. “We look forward to welcoming our students back to the classroom, whether they be in person or participating virtually.”
“Catholic schools have the ability to safely return to in-person instruction due to their facility and enrollment size,” Hargens said.
“A significant investment in technology, infrastructure, and professional development, as well as the adoption of a variety of risk mitigation methods, are key factors in our school system’s ability to offer all three modes of operation (in-person, hybrid, and remote).”
HEALTH SCREENING PROTOCOLS FOR STUDENTS AND STAFF:
Outlines in the Archdiocese of Baltimore reopening plan, schools will establish a daily health screening protocol for students and staff entering the building. The objective is to verify the absence of symptoms and known exposures. Those who lack a completed screening upon arrival at school, will have their temperature taken before they may enter the school building.
Faculty and staff will be required to take their temperature prior to entering school facilities. Preschool and kindergarten students will have their temperatures taken and recorded upon arrival at school. Students in grades one through 12 will be required to have their temperature taken by a parent or guardian prior to arrival at school. Anyone registering a temperature greater than 100.0° F will be required to stay home.
All faculty, staff, and students (age 3 and older) are required to wear a cloth face mask when indoors and whenever social distancing is not possible outdoors.
Specific guidelines will be in place for when students and staff are permitted to be without a cloth face mask while on the school campus, such as during meals.
Schools have amended the uniform policy to include guidance relative to the color, design, and style of the cloth face masks that are permitted to be worn by students. Individual schools will provide details of the adaptations of the uniform policy.
Disposable masks will be provided in the event a student or staff member forgets to bring their cloth mask to campus.
Schools will provide appropriate alternatives, such as a face shield, for students and staff who have a verifiable medical basis for being unable to wear a cloth face covering.
Hand sanitizer stations will be placed throughout all school facilities, in classrooms and at entrance/exits for use prior to entering the building.
Hand washing will be required before and after meals, as well as encouraged throughout the day. Signs will be placed in all restrooms with proper hand washing procedures.
All schools will establish an isolation area where students and staff who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 can be separated from the rest of the school population. All Catholic schools will use this guidance to establish an isolation area for the start of the new school year. School health suites have been evaluated and will be modified to ensure healthy students who need medication to be dispensed or who need other non-illness related treatment, will be cared for without exposure to potential infection.
Schools will have a supply of additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) (gloves, goggles, gowns and N-95 rated face masks) for staff who are caring for a student or staff member who is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
Students and staff whose possible exposure to COVID-19 is being investigated, and those who are exhibiting symptoms, will be required to be tested in accordance with recommendations of state and local health authorities.
CLEANING AND DISINFECTING
To mitigate the transmission of the COVID-19 virus in schools, cleaning and disinfection
protocols have been established and will be implemented by each school. Archdiocesan schools
are utilizing a two-step disinfecting and protecting process to disinfect and protect all surfaces
using Sniper disinfectant and Endure surface protectant. The Endure surface protectant is
a stable, bacteriostatic product that mechanically kills both viruses and bacteria on contact,
allowing for 90 days of persistent protection against viruses and bacteria.
Schools will develop a schedule for cleaning and disinfecting daily, with increased attention to
frequently touched surfaces (e.g. door handles, sink handles, desks, chairs, stair railings).
Teachers and Staff will clean frequently touched surfaces periodically throughout the day.
Staff who use cleaning and disinfectant products must ensure they are used and stored correctly and safely, with adequate ventilation. This includes using disinfecting products that meet criteria of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Signs will be placed at all entrance/exit doors stating the mask policy. Posters on proper hand washing will be displayed in every bathroom, along with signs citing the permitted number of occupants per bathroom. Directional signs will be placed on floors, guiding the flow of traffic in the hallways to mitigate risk and to promote social distancing.
There will be designated entry and exit paths. Markers on floors will indicate proper social distancing intervals for waiting areas and lines. Signs will be placed throughout buildings noting the number of occupants allowed at one time in the room to maintain recommended social distancing.
MODIFIED LAYOUT FOR CLASSROOMS AND COMMUNAL SPACES
Students will be spaced apart in each classroom, following the spacing
recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control.
Desks should face in one direction. In order to maximize space to allow for proper social distancing, bookcases, filing cabinets, flexible seating options, and other non-essential classroom items have been removed.
Communal gathering spaces such as dining halls or student lounges will be closed. These spaces may be reconfigured into additional classroom space if needed.
Physical barriers, such as plastic flexible screens, will be used when students cannot be at least 3-6 feet apart.
Ventilation and HVAC systems will have filter enhancements (where applicable) to maximize air flow and quality. When weather permits, windows should be opened to increase circulation of outdoor air.
MATERIALS AND STUDENT SUPPLIES
Supplies, equipment, and devices should not be shared. Each child’s belongings will be separated and stored in individually labeled storage containers, cubbies, or taken home each day and cleaned. The use of lockers and coat rooms should be avoided, if possible.
Recess is an important part of the school day for students and will continue to be incorporated into the schedule. To mitigate the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, protocols for recess and using playground equipment will be established and implemented at each school.
FOOD SERVICE GUIDELINES
Students must wash their hands with soap and water before and after eating. If working with a third-party vendor lunch program, lunches should be served individually.
An online ordering system should be implemented to limit the in-person sale process for students to mitigate risk. Students should bring their own lunch or be served in individual disposable containers. No microwavable foods will be allowed and students should keep their lunch bags in their book bags or in their desk until lunch, so there is less handling.
Lunch bags will not be allowed to be refrigerated and students should eat at desks in their classrooms. If students eat lunch in a cafeteria, social distancing guidelines should be followed, with a limited number of students at each table, restricted to students in the same class or assigned student group.
No sharing of food of drinks will be permitted and surfaces should be disinfected such as student desks and lunch tables before and after food contact is made.
Catholic schools will continue to offer the Extended Day program to school families (where possible) with the appropriate social distancing, sanitizing and hygiene practices in place. The Extended Day program operations may vary from school-to-school, or be modified throughout the year. School specific information will be shared in each school’s reopening communications.
Schools are encouraged to develop a plan specific to each program to accommodate the variance in day-to-day pick-up times and designate and assign a set time for pick up based on parent schedules.
Schools will revise existing visitor policies and procedures to strictly limit who is permitted to visit during the school day. This will include restrictions on visits by parents and other family members. The policy shall provide exceptions to include permitting visits by the following emergency personnel responding to a call for assistance, vendors and contractors to address emergency situations, substitute teachers, members of the parish staff who support the school operations, and other individuals as approved by the principal or their designee.
Deliveries during the school day must be directed to a receiving area away from and isolated from student and staff, except for the employee who handles the delivery. Authorized visitors to the school, must comply with all requirements related to social distancing, wearing PPE and hand sanitizing.
Tutors, therapists, or other individuals who previously were granted access to the school to work with a child, must now arrange to provide those services remotely (as applicable) and work with school principals to develop schedules to meet student needs.
The full Archdiocese of Baltimore reopening plan can be viewed at https://www.archbalt.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/20-21-Catholic-Schools-Reopening-Guidelines_FINAL.pdf.