Principal’s Letter

Greetings from the school office.  Today, faculty and staff gathered virtually to remember and pray for our beloved colleague, Marcey Flood.  She was brave, courageous, and graceful in her fight against an extremely rare type of vascular cancer.  Her presence in our school and parish communities made us strive to be better people.  We also learned this week that Chef Michael Strimban’s mother passed away Sunday.  Please join me in offering up prayers for the Flood and Strimban families.

Work continues here at the school in preparation for the fall.  Our Re-Opening Task Force, comprised of administration, teachers, support staff, and parents, has been meeting frequently.  I said I would provide an update every two weeks throughout the summer with how our plans are evolving.  In my first communication (6/18), we shared with you the results from our parent survey and initial return to school scenarios.  Since then, the Task Force has reviewed documentation from the survey, OSPI, The American Academy of Pediatrics, and other resources. It is clear in-person instruction is optimal for students, and all recommendations point to re-opening schools as a priority. With this we are able to narrow down our approach with the goal of having all students back on campus in the fall.  To that end, and with physical distancing measures in place, I can share with you what the fall is starting to look like at St. John Catholic School.

At this writing, we are preparing for an on-time (September 1) and in-person start (all students PreK-8) to the new school year.  And while the start date might seem familiar, the reality of in-person classes will look much different in a physically distanced school environment. It will require creative use of all school spaces (cafeteria, gym, Egan Mezzanine, the portables, etc.) and demand extra patience and flexibility from everyone as we endeavor to have students at school in front of teachers.

While plans can change at any time, our current fall scenario calls for the following:

  • A small student cohort model with students physically distanced in classrooms throughout the campus with teachers, specialists, and assistants working collaboratively
  • Staggered drop-off/pick-up procedures and times.  Information TBD
  • All staff, faculty, and students will be screened daily and have temperature checks prior to entering the buildings
  • All staff and students will be required to wear cloth masks
  • Only staff and students will be permitted entry to the school building
  • No off-site appointments should be scheduled during the school day; if a student leaves campus they will not be permitted to return that day
  • No large gatherings, including assemblies, all-school Masses and field trips for the time being
  • Students remain with cohorts throughout the day, including recess and lunch
  • Portable lunch service expected – lunch in classrooms

We know masks, spacing and screening procedures will take a while for students to adjust to and feel comfortable with, but we believe that live instruction and interaction with peers and teachers are critical to students’ social-emotional and mental health.  With smaller, grade-level cohorts and by minimizing crossover among children and adults within the school, we aim to mitigate the potential spread of contagion by lowering the risk of transmission between individuals. We are also aware the social-emotional support and mental health safeguards children will need when they return to school will be paramount to their success.  In addition to the efforts to support the academic and social-emotional well-being of our students, we have already taken extra safety and cleanliness measures in preparation for our return in the fall, including:

  • Ordered additional hand sanitizer for hallways and classrooms
  • Ordered additional PPE, including several no-touch infrared thermometers
  • Researched procurement of disinfecting sprayers that adhere to and surround all surfaces for thorough disinfecting
  • Measured and mapped each space on campus for optimal physical distancing when students return
  • Water fountains will only be used for filling water bottles; drinking from fountains will not be permitted

Cleaning and disinfecting spaces in and around the campus will continue with:

  • Increased cleaning procedures throughout the day
  • Bathrooms will be disinfected at least twice during the school day
  • Door handles and high contact areas will be disinfected at least twice during the school day

The school recognizes there may be exceptional circumstances that cause a family to decide to keep their student home regardless of the measures we have taken for in-person instruction. A modified distance learning plan will be made available to families who are not comfortable returning to campus.

There is always the possibility that we will have to return to a full distance learning plan at some point should a resurgence of the virus alter our fall plans. This secondary plan would see us return to a full Distance Learning Plan. Using our collective experiences from this spring and insights gained from parent surveys, the teachers will refine the Distance Learning Plan and be prepared to provide a rigorous at-home academic program with enhanced opportunities for virtual instruction.

As you are aware, we have opened our Extended Daycare (XDC) for summer and are already putting many of the above-mentioned protocols in place.  Children and staff are wearing masks and grouped in cohorts.  Temperature readings, for both students and staff, are recorded daily.  State and county guidelines are being adhered to in establishing daily routines.  In fact, just this week a temporary closure was mandated when a staff member was discovered to have a fever after starting a work shift. We acted quickly and experienced using the protocols that align with the regulations from Washington State, Department of Health and Early Learning.  This was another reminder of our new reality, and we must act for the common good, for the health and well-being of all our community. XDC will resume operations on Monday.

In line with our mission, to act for the common good, here are your action items for the summer:

  1. Procure multiple masks for your student(s).  We are asking you to send your child with two masks per/day.  Practice wearing the masks now so that they are prepared.  And wash your masks frequently.  Make it a project – perhaps they can learn to make them!  Pick out their own colors, material etc.
  2. Make a habit of checking your family’s temperatures daily.
  3. Because we are advised not to mix student cohorts, XDC coverage may be limited in the fall.  Have a back-up childcare plan developed in advance.
  4. Be aware that we will be strict when it comes to our daily health screenings.  Have a back-up plan for your children during cold and flu season.

I will send another update in mid-July as we further develop information about new procedures and protocols for the 2020-2021 school year.

Please remember this is what we know now and are planning for at this point.  As we all know, things continue to change and ultimately, the Governor and Department of Health can change recommendations as they monitor this situation.  We will work on all of the procedural details throughout the summer so that families have a clear, comprehensive plan before the first day of school.  To take your mind off all of this, check out the summer learning opportunities, and the Back to School page, with the summer reading requirements for Middle School students.  Avoid the summer slide!

I’m wishing you a happy, healthy, and physically distanced 4th of July weekend.  Please stay safe.

Bernadette O’Leary