St. Joseph Consolidated School
Back to School (Re-Opening) Plans
The following plan has been developed in consultation with the City of Hamilton Health Department and in coordination with the Catholic/Private school administrators in the greater Hamilton area. Recognizing that there are elements of this plan that of necessity must remain fluid, we are making every effort to identify and respond to all of the issues that will ensure the greatest possible risk reduction for our students, families, and staff members. We believe it is critical to point out that this is a plan aimed at “risk reduction,” that is, reducing COVID-19 transmission within our school population to the lowest possible level. That is to say, we have been cautioned by health officials to expect some level of COVID-19 transmission among our students and staff no matter what we do. Therefore, our back-to-school plan will include both preventative measures as well as response measures. Please click on the document below to read our full back to school plan.
St. Joseph Consolidated School Back to School (Re-Opening) Plans
The following plan has been developed in consultation with the City of Hamilton Health Department and in coordination with the Catholic/Private school administrators in the greater Hamilton area. Recognizing that there are elements of this plan that of necessity must remain fluid, we are making every effort to identify and respond to all of the issues that will ensure the greatest possible risk reduction for our students, families, and staff members. We believe it is critical to point out that this is a plan aimed at “risk reduction,” that is, reducing COVID-19 transmission within our school population to the lowest possible level. That is to say, we have been cautioned by health officials to expect some level of COVID-19 transmission among our students and staff no matter what we do. Therefore, our back-to-school plan will include both preventative measures as well as response measures.
We are planning for ALL students to return to our building EVERY DAY when school starts on August 26. The one exception to the all-students-every-day plan is kindergarten. We are working on a plan to bring kindergarten students back using a phase-in strategy, one-third coming on the 26th, one-third on the 27th, and one-third coming on the 28th. All kindergartners will begin coming to school together on Monday, the 31st. This strategy will give us more time to work with these younger students in small groups and help them adjust to this big new world. I am also not addressing preschool since they have their own separate set of guidelines which will be communicated directly to those parents.
All returning students will encounter some changes (requirements) that are being put in place to ensure their safety, the safety of their families, and the safety of our staff members who work with them on a daily basis. The most important of these prevention requirements address the need to control and maintain social distancing. Our approach to prevention will also include our plans for PPE (masks and face shields), enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures, and steps being taken to reduce touch/contact points.
The key issue regarding social distancing is to come up with a plan that keeps students as far apart as possible (ideally, 6ft) during their time in our building. Accomplishing this objective involves some significant adjustments to student seating and mobility. Our plan for controlling and maintaining social distancing is as follows:
Students arriving to our school each morning will be directed to go directly to their classrooms and immediately take the seat assigned to them. In past years, they reported to the auditorium until 7:25. This will no longer be allowed. Students must be in their desks ready for school to start by 7:30 or they will be marked tardy.
Parents will not be permitted to enter the building with their child/ren during the student drop off/arrival time period. All business with the school office in the morning that requires entering the building must be taken care of after student arrival (7:45). Parents/visitors will be directed to remain in their cars and call the school office to request entry. As indicated in our plan for visitors/parents, this will include:
With the goal of maintaining maximum spacing between students at all times, we will be taking the following steps:
We recognize that we are working with children and appreciate that children are not made to sit in a desk/chair for five to six hours a day. Children need to move. Therefore, we recognize that our plan must include a way for students to move about safely. To accomplish this objective, we will be putting in place some limits on their mobility as well as planned opportunities for them to move about. These steps include:
The sharing of materials (art supplies, math manipulatives, music instruments, science labs, etc.) between students will be restricted. Materials that students will need to work with will be packaged and distributed in individual containers and sanitized and/or placed in isolation for a prescribed period of time between uses.
In past years, teachers in the lower grades (K-3) have used classroom fees to provide shared snacks for their students. This was done to ensure that every student received a snack. This practice will not be permitted this year. Each student will be expected to bring his/her own snack to school each day. Parent cooperation with this change will be critical. A limited supply of individually wrapped snacks will be available for, what we hope will be, occasional emergency use.
Students (4-8) access to lockers will be scheduled and limited to control social distancing. Students will be permitted to store only their backpacks, coats, and lunches in their lockers. All books and materials will be stored in desks in classrooms.
Our library will be open when school starts and students will be permitted to check out books. We will be following recommended safety precautions, which include:
All restroom doors will be propped open and additional screen/divider panels added to permit entry and exit without the need to touch door handles.
All restrooms have been converted to touchless fixtures for water and soap. Two new touchless faucets and sinks have been installed in the hall outside the cafeteria. Splash guards have been installed between sinks.
Blow dryers have been disconnected and paper towel dispensers installed in all restrooms. Trash can lids have been removed to eliminate another contact point.
Safety regulations require us to shut down our drinking fountains during these COVID days. Therefore, students will be permitted to bring their own school-approved water bottles to school each day. (Please see our website for details on school-approved water bottles.) Teachers will be provided with water to be used for refilling student bottles. Health Department recommends bottled water or refill stations.
Students and staff will be trained on good hygiene practices. Signs and posters will be in place throughout the building to reinforce these practices. Ongoing parent communications will include information and reminders. Key issues that will be addressed here are handwashing, face covering (wearing masks/shields), and stay-at-home-when-ill directives.
Multiple opportunities will be provided each day for students and staff to wash their hands with soap and water. Planned and monitored opportunities will be built in student schedules. Upgraded facilities will make this process safer. Hand sanitizer dispensers will be available throughout the building.
Students will be trained during the first days of school how to cover coughs and sneezes effectively. This training will be reviewed and repeated as necessary. Because coughs, sneezes, and even normal conversation are key factors in the spread of COVID-19, all students (K-8), staff members, volunteers, and visitors will be required to wear a facemask and be wearing it properly (covering nose and mouth) when in close proximity (<6 ft.) of another person. The amount of time students will be required to wear a facemask may change as conditions change (we are currently RED) in our community/county. This is being required by most of the public and private schools in Butler County. The Health Department has advised that compliance with this requirement will be a key factor in minimizing the number of classmates and staff members who may need to be quarantined if/when a student tests positive for COVID-19.
Stay At Home When Ill or Exposed
When Ill - Parents must to build into their family’s daily morning routine the taking of each child’s temperature and checking for any symptoms that may warrant keeping a child at home. Based on CDC recommendations, any child registering a temperature of 100.4 degrees or more must not be sent to school. A check list of other symptoms will be provided. Helping us by monitoring these symptoms at home may prevent unplanned trips to school to pick up sick children and will go a long way toward preventing the spread of COVID-19 and all other illnesses. An ill child may return to school when symptom free and fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medication.
When Exposed - Students or staff may become exposed to COVID-19 from coming in close contact with a family member who tests positive or through a family member who has recently traveled to a COVID-19 hot spot. In either case, the school must be notified. Members of this family may be required to be quarantined at home for 14 days, or as directed by the City of Hamilton Health Department. Parents assume a moral obligation to follow this directive faithfully and honestly for the safety of our school community.
Our school cafeteria will continue to provide hot lunches each day. We will operate under the guidance and direction of the City of Hamilton Health Department. All cafeteria staff will wear masks and gloves at all times. Other changes to our food service plan to increase safety will include:
We are fortunate to have air conditioning throughout our building. The settings on our air conditioning units will be adjusted to provide a constant exchange of air with outside air. Because our system is not a central air system, we are able to limit to some degree the sharing of air from room to room.
Daily Cleaning and Sanitation
Thorough cleaning of all surfaces will be done on a daily basis by our maintenance staff and teachers. Special attention will be given to critical touch points, such as railings, door knobs, restroom facilities, etc.
We will make every effort to limit the number of visitors permitted to enter our building in general, as well as the number permitted to enter at any one time. All visitors, including parents, entering our building will be required to have their temperatures taken at the door and answer questions relative their wellness and exposure to COVID-19. Movement of visitors will be restricted. All visitors will be required to wear a face covering/mask. Parents who need to come into the building during the school day are encouraged to call ahead and notify the office of their arrival time or schedule a time.
Health Department officials have guided our planning for responding to a student who becomes ill during the school day and shows symptoms of COVID-19. The most obvious of the symptoms we will be monitoring will be a temperature of 100.4 degrees or more. When this occurs:
When an ill student tests positive for COVID-19, the school will report the incident to the City of Hamilton Health Department and follow their directives. (Parents are expected to cooperate fully with the Health Department’s contact tracing efforts.) We have been advised that, with appropriate safety measures (wearing masks/shields) and social distancing practices in place, this may not require the quarantining of the entire class.
All other ill students will be permitted to return to school when symptom-free and fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication. COVID-19 testing will not be required unless symptoms warrant. The decision to have a child tested will be left to the child’s physician. The school must be notified if a child tests positive for COVID-19. Parents assume a moral obligation to follow this directive faithfully and honestly for the safety of our school community.
DISTANCE LEARNING PLAN
We recognize the importance of being able to provide the best possible distance learning experience for our students and are preparing to do so to address two identified need areas: underlying medical conditions and anticipated spread of COVID-19.
Underlying Medical Condition
We understand that there can be many reasons why a parent may not feel comfortable sending a child back to school in the fall. Some students themselves may have an underlying medical condition. Some students may live with an adult who has a significant underlying medical condition. In either case, the risk may be judged to be too great. We respect that decision.
If parents feel the risk for their child/ren is just too great and they are looking for a long-term (semester long or year long) distance learning experience, we will work with them to locate a program (such as Ohio Virtual Academy) designed with that purpose in mind. If requested, we will reserve their child/rens’ spot on our classroom roster(s) and look forward to welcoming them back to school during the 2020-2021 school year or in 2021-2022 school year. Due to staffing limitations, we are simply not in a position to provide a sustained, long-term distance learning experience for some and an in-school learning experience for others at the same time. If circumstances change (COVID-19 flare-up), and the governor (or local Health Department) closes schools (or our school) again for an extended period of time, we will shift our total focus to online instruction. At that point, our teachers will be fully engaged in distance learning for all students. We stand ready to do that at any time.
Anticipated Spread on COVID-19
We have been cautioned by health officials to expect some level of COVID-19 transmission among our students and staff no matter what we do. Therefore, it is prudent on our part to prepare for some level of distance learning going on throughout the school year as students come down with or are exposed to COVID-19. It may well be the case that several students in a grade level are out of the building in quarantine for 10 to 14 days throughout the school year. Preparing for this possibility just makes sense and compels us to have a plan in place to provide the best possible distance learning we can during these times.
Distance Learning Plan
Fortunately, we had some good practice for providing online instruction at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Our teachers did an amazing job providing meaningful instruction and learned some skills that have long-term value. However, if/when teachers are engaged in instruction each day with a class physically present, we will have to adjust our plan for online instruction. Our plan for providing a distance learning experience to some students while other students are still coming to school will include the following:
We have purchased a webcam and microphone system for each of our classrooms. Students who are sick at home or in quarantine will be able to login at scheduled times using a chromebook to see and hear what is being taught in class in real time. We do not expect students sitting at home to be logged into webcam classes all day long every day; in fact, we do not plan to have all webcams turned on all day. Some classes will be more suited to this experience than others, and logging into those classes will be scheduled accordingly by the classroom teacher. However, being able to connect and feel part of a class while quarantined at home should make the transition back to school easier when that time comes. These systems were purchased to provide a better learning experience than what was possible with apps like Zoom. The procedure(s) used to exchange schoolwork (receiving and returning) between home and school during periods of distance learning will be worked out between the teacher and the family.
Even before COVID-19 interrupted our school year and threw us into a distance learning mode, we had been working with online learning tools provided by our textbook publishers (SuperKids, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Nancy Larson Science, Pearson, etc.) as well as supplemental programs (Freckle, eSpark, RazKids) to provide support and reinforcement in the classroom. These programs proved to be useful distance learning tools and helped us with the transition to home-based learning. We anticipate that many students may be needing access to these programs to continue learning at home for extended or short periods of quarantine time. We will prepare for this possibility early in the school year by providing all students with logins and passwords as well as the assessment/placement, and practice needed to transition to distance learning if needed. These programs are designed to provide individualized, self-pacing learning for students in core areas of reading, writing and math. Teachers and parents will be able to track a child’s progress and provide support when needed.
Starting School In-Person with a Phase-In Plan
St. Joseph Consolidated School is still planning on returning to school 5 days a week. When students return to school in-person this year, they will be expected to learn several new ways of doing things that have been put in place to keep everyone as safe as possible. Because this is extremely important and needs to be done with patience and understanding, we have decided to utilize a back-to-school phase-in plan. This plan will involve bringing students back in smaller groups, approximately half a class at a time, for the FIRST THREE DAYS OF SCHOOL ONLY, as follows. Class rosters are attached for families to confirm which day their children will attend:
Wednesday, August 26 - Students in Grades PK-8 with last names beginning with A-K
.Working with these smaller groups, teachers will be able to answer questions more thoroughly, observe and respond with sensitivity to any signs of stress or confusion, review and practice as much as needed, and generally be more responsive to the emotional needs of the class. School-wide we will be able to practice arrival, dismissal, lunch, restroom management, etc. with smaller numbers and make note of adjustments that will improve the experience for everyone.
Thank you for your patience. Getting this right and keeping everyone as safe as possible will help us keep in-person learning going forward.
Back to School Plan - Questions and Answers
Questions and Answers
I will continue to respond to questions as they come in email@example.com and will keep this a living document for some period of time.
Q: If a student needs to be quarantined, will this count against their days absent from school for the state of Ohio?
According to the Reset and Restart Planning Guide for Ohio Schools and Districts put out by the Ohio Department of Education on the topic of attendance it states the following: “Allow for flexibility in education-related policies and requirements, where practical (instructional delivery, school schedules, number of students in person, attendance, etc.).” I’m sure they will have more to say about that going forward, but I think we can reasonably expect some latitude as far as counting sick days is concerned. I do know that days in quarantine are not counted as absent as long as they are working online at home.
Q: In regards to the 8th grade DC trip, will you be asking our students(or siblings) to be quarantined for 14 days after return since we are traveling out of state and flying?
I posed this question to the Health Department and received the following response: “Not as things are right now. We are not quarantining travelers from anywhere within the US.”
Q: Do we need to provide our own masks/face coverings? Will there be a uniform type requirement?
Yes, parents will be expected to provide face masks for their child/ren. We suggest multiple face masks to allow for laundering rotation. There is no specific uniform requirement at this time. Some are pretty creative and colorful. Of course, as with all clothing worn to school, no objectionable or violent graphics or language. A to Z Wear, our uniform supplier, is offering face masks with our school graphics. We will get information out to you as soon as it becomes available.
Q: Are students allowed to bring their own packed lunch?
Yes, students may bring a packed lunch and purchase milk as always.
Q: Are students going to be required to wear masks? All day?
Yes, students (K-8) will be required to wear face masks. How long they will have to wear them each day will vary according to their grade level, activity, and physical location. Students in grades K, 1, and 2 will have more opportunities to remove their masks than students in grades 3-8. Unfortunately, yes, students in grades 3-8 will be required to wear a mask much of the day. Our plan originally stated facemasks or shields. The Health Department had us remove face shields as an option, pointing out that they were not sufficiently protective against COVID-19 transmission. Face shields will be permitted in some limited situations (for example, speech). We will continue to work with the Health Department to monitor any changes in this policy. If a child has a serious medical reason for not wearing a mask, the parents can supply a document from a licensed physician stating the reason and requesting an exemption.
Q: Any plan for after school activities(ie: SOC, drama, archery)?
At present, drama has been canceled. SOC and archery are yet to be decided.
Q: How rigorously will masking, distancing, sanitizing, hand washing, non-sharing of items, etc. be enforced?
We are taking this very seriously. Until there is an effective vaccine available, COVID-19 will remain a very serious threat in our community. Every aspect of our plan will be reviewed with our staff before school starts and expectations will be clearly spelled out. When students arrive on day one, those expectations will be clearly communicated to them as well. Yes, it will require daily reinforcement and practice. As with wearing masks, the full and consistent implementation of every element of our plan will not be not optional. It is a matter of expressing our love and concern for others. It is nothing short of our moral obligation to do what we can to save lives.
Q: What backup staffing plans are in place when/if teachers become unavailable to teach in person or online?
Candidly, this is one of the most challenging aspects facing all schools dealing with COVID-19. Finding substitute teachers this year will be a challenge. If a teacher is out sick, with COVID-19 or for any other reason, we will go to our sub list and call for help. Right now, it is all we have. If funding becomes available, I will attempt to hire a full-time substitute teacher and academic support person to remain on standby. I have started a list of contacts should this opportunity become available. (I welcome any candidates for this position if you know anyone.)
Q: If a student in a class tests positive for COVID-19, will the whole class be quarantined?
If a student in a class tests positive for COVID-19, we are expected to report it to the City of Hamilton Health Department. From that point forward, we will follow their guidance. We have been told to expect the following:
Q: If there is an “outbreak” in the school, will everyone stay home and switch to online instruction?
Yes, if there is an outbreak in school we are prepared to switch to online instruction very quickly. We are preparing for this possibility and will be preparing students for it from day one. The key part of that question is what is considered an outbreak? How many students infected with COVID-19 at one time constitutes an “outbreak” in a population of 200 students and 25 staff members? At present, I have no clear idea of what that number might be. I’ve heard it could be as few as 2 students. This is another situation that will require consultation with the Health Department. When/if this becomes clearer, I will write it into our plan. When I have the answer to the question: You can expect in-person school to close for everyone if/when… I will communicate it to you.
Q: How will we be safe in gym class if we are working (and breathing) hard?
Working and breathing hard can still be done safely in gym class provided that two important conditions are maintained: social distancing and air flow. These conditions can be achieved best outdoors. Therefore, every day that the weather permits (dry, not precipitating, hot or cold) we will be going outside for gym classes. On the days when we are forced to be inside, we will modify the activities to reduce the amount of heavy breathing (stretching exercises, low impact activities) and increase the air flow (prop open doors) to allow for an exchange of air.
Q: Will we have all-school Masses? How will we social distance?
No, we will not have all-school Masses. We have developed a schedule based on three grades attending at a time. That means that each grade will have a chance to attend Mass every three weeks. That keeps the number of students in church at a manageable level and allows for social distancing. On some special occasions we may be able to live stream the Mass to student in their classrooms.
Q: How will we be able to social distance at lunch? Will we be able to buy hot lunch?
Yes, you will be able to buy hot lunch or pack your lunch if you prefer. We will be using the cafeteria and the auditorium for seating. No more than 3 persons per table will be allowed. We’ve got that covered. Floor markers are in place to keep students 6 feet apart while waiting in line.
Q: Have you considered distance learning as an option to going back to school?
Yes, we certainly have considered distance learning. We know that we will have to be doing some amount of distance learning throughout the school year for students who are sick or may be quarantined, and we are prepared to do so. We have purchased some new equipment and programs to support that. What we also know about distance learning is that it works okay for some students and not so well for many other students. What all schools had an opportunity to learn last spring is how well does distance learning work for their students. The general consensus is that it is not the best way for students to learn, and for some students it is very ineffective. It’s just not a good long-term solution. Another factor we have to consider is asking teachers to do two things at once. Our teachers have proven that they can do a fairly effective job of teaching online. They did a great job last spring. But they cannot teach online the way they would need to and teach live in the classroom all day. Just not enough hours in the day to do that. If the school has to close and all classes and go online, we’re ready to do that. But coming back to school offers the best way for kids to learn if we can do that safely. And we think we can. Yes, it does involve some amount of risk, and will until a COVID-19 vaccine is available. We feel that because we are a small school we are in a better position to manage our students and keep them safe. It will require daily reminders and constant monitoring.
Q: Will we have recess?
Yes, we will have recess every day. When the weather is dry, we will be going outside. Even on cold days, so bring a coat and gloves. On some days when it rains we may be able to have recess in the gym, but not all the time. Recess will have to be in the classrooms some days. At recess, you will be able to play games (like four square and kickball, even tag) but you will have to follow the social distancing rules. Yes, you will be able to drop your mask. That’s why you will have to stay 6 feet apart. Everyone should have some kind of neck cord or device to hold their mask on them securely when the lower them for recess (or any other time during the day). We don’t want you taking them off and laying them down somewhere. That’s not safe. We will be cleaning the back playground between groups and every class will have their own set of balls and equipment (no sharing).
Q: Will I get in trouble if I take my mask off?
No, you will not get in trouble, but you will be reminded to put it back on. We will work very patiently with you until you get used to wearing a mask. Unfortunately, we are very likely going to be wearing them for several months, maybe all year. We all have to learn to do what will keep others safe so we can all keep going to school. If you just can’t keep a mask on, we will have to help you find an online program so you can stay at home and learn. That’s okay. We’ll save a place for you and see you when this is all behind us.
Q: Can we stay at home some days?
We can and will stay at home some days (called blended learning) if the Governor tell us that’s what we have to do. Right now, neither he nor the Health Department is saying that. Some bigger public schools are doing that because they have much larger schools with a lot more kids. They can’t get 1200 kids in their cafeteria to eat lunch and have nowhere else for them to go. So they are brings half their school back at a time. We are a much smaller school with many fewer students and have a plan approved by the Health Deaprtment for maintaining social distance and wearing masks. They are telling us that if we follow our plan and do all the things it contains (and we will), we will be as safe as we can be and can return to school 5 days a week.
Q: When will school be normal again?
Wow, if only I had the answer to that question. I can’t even begin to answer that with a calendar date. I can offer an answer based on circumstances and conditions.
School will come close to being normal again when our world finds an effective vaccine to protect most people from this COVID-19 virus. A lot of very smart and dedicated medical people and researchers are working very hard on that. They have two big jobs: first they need to develop a vaccine and then they need to convince everyone that it is safe to take. That last part may be harder than the first part. But we won’t be back to “normal” until both things happen.