Notes from the Principal's Desk: Survey results, school year preparations, and more

We hope that this communication finds you and your family healthy and enjoying the summer break. We are looking forward to the start of school. We have been working through the many preparations for beginning the new school year on August 31st, whether that be with all the students in the school in-person, implementing a hybrid learning model, or, if necessary, virtual learning.  

Today's communication is not meant to serve as a final declaration of the school's reopening plan.  There is still some work to do and details to finalize.  We plan to share the updated reopening plan the week of August 10th, after the SCMOQ Task Force has had a chance to provide some additional recommendations.  

You may recall we sent a survey to the faculty/staff & parents concerning reopening the other week. We are grateful for everyone who completed the survey. You can find a link with the results here. We have also collected all the open-ended responses and aggregated the data to develop themes to inform our decisions moving forward. 

We want to share some information about what we have been working on over the past few weeks.  Last week, the Department of Catholic Schools task force released its Plan for Reopening Schools, which we shared with the community. 

Last week also saw the SCMOQ Task Force conduct a facility walk-through with teacher volunteers present.  We visited several classrooms of different grade levels and shared details for traffic flow patterns within the school.  We are presently working through some great questions and concerns shared by teachers and members of the task force.  Some of the answers are dependent on the actual numbers of students who will be in the building, the number of families choosing the virtual learning option, and the staff available as we split classes to enact proper social distancing.  

This week, the Department of Catholic Schools sent a parent intent form for Principals to send out to our community to better plan for the reopening of school. We sent the form out earlier this week and have been getting many responses.  The form will close on August 3rd, so if you have not yet filled it out, please complete the parent intent form by Monday. So far, out of the 258 responses (one response per student), 90.7% (234 responses) have indicated they intend to send their children to school in person.  By contrast, 6.2% (16 responses) of those who responded indicated they plan to have their child learn virtually. 3.1% (8 respondents) indicated they were uncertain and needed to have further conversations with the administration.  

We also asked for similar information from our faculty. The results have been a bit different from the parent response. Of the approximately 60 faculty and staff members, we have so far received 33 responses. One respondent has indicated the preference for in-person learning five days a week. 42.4% (14 respondents)  have indicated a preference for a hybrid in-person and virtual learning option, and 51.5% (17 respondents) have stated the desire for virtual learning the 1st trimester of school.

I reiterate that no final decision has been made by the SCMOQ Task Force and the school for reopening. However, it is evident that any in-person or hybrid learning option will require the community to come together and respect the social contract of wearing masks and fastidiously completing the daily morning health screenings.

Today, the Department of Catholic Schools conducted a walk-through of the school to help us plan the best use of space while socially distancing students.  We are blessed to have enough space to accommodate the likely dividing of homerooms. Still, one of our challenges remaining is having enough faculty and staff to be in the rooms throughout the day to ensure the students' safety and effective instruction.
 
One of the many questions I have received from the teachers and countless conversations with parents is how will we respond to community members who display symptoms or have confirmed cases of COVID-19. Please read this document on the response to a case of COVID-19 in schools. This decision aid provided by the Maryland Department of Health is being used by the SCMOQ Task Force and the school to determine our protocols.  Additionally, we have been informed that we will have to submit weekly reports to the Department of Health, who will guide our decision-making as to whether we will have to pivot to remote learning entirely.

In the coming weeks, we will be sharing images and videos of what the classrooms will look like for students who will be attending school in person.  A second intent form will be sent out so families can make informed decisions before starting school. This coming year, learning for students will look dramatically different. Instruction will not be the same as it was with last year.  It will not be business as usual but just with students wearing masks.  Social distancing will require less movement of students, more formal seating, and instruction without the extensive use of in-person small groups.  However, we are committed to providing the best education for our students this school year.  We are looking forward to the end of the pandemic and returning to the innovative educational environment we offer.

God Bless,

Michael Wright
Principal
The School of the Cathedral