COVID-19 Response

Wednesday, July 21, 2020

Dear Parents of Saint Thomas,

Our theme for the 2020-2021 School Year is “Our God is Making All Things New.”

This speaks of God’s creative wisdom in our lives from the very beginning of creation.  God’s love is making all things new. That’s the Easter story, right?!  God took something old – death – and created new, eternal life for us all.  Our God gives us HOPE for tomorrow, hope for the future and hope for eternal life.

Our God is making all things new – so in the face of uncertainty and anxiety and fear, we have HOPE! 

And, when we cooperate with His grace, we share in God’s creative goodness.  God’s presence in our lives helps us to make all things new – to create new things (the arts and sciences), to spruce up the old (remembering the past and our traditions), to renovate (to change and adapt) and to become who He is calling each of us to be (our Vocation). 

As we enter into this upcoming year with a “new” building, with new leadership, we rely on God’s creative wisdom to guide us and sustain us as we prepare for the 2020-2021 School Year. 

Since March, school leaders from the Diocese of Covington and local school districts have been creating new plans for re-opening schools for the 2020-2021 school year in the face of COVID-19. 

We all need God’s guidance as we prepare for the unknown.  In the midst of uncertainty, God will make all things new.

On June 24, Governor Beshear released the State of Kentucky’s “Healthy at School” guiding document and expectations for re-opening. 

Today, in conjunction with the Diocese of Covington, we are introducing our plans for Saint Thomas School to reopen on Wednesday, August 19 in alignment with guidance from the Center for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Kentucky Department of Health, and the Kentucky Department of Education and the Diocese of Covington. The Diocese of Covington’s requirements are linked here.

During the last few months, we have diligently worked on four different scenarios that our school might encounter in the upcoming school year.  Our goal has been, and will continue to be, to provide the safest, and healthiest options for our families as we reopen for the 2020-2021 School Year.

Saint Thomas School | Scenario Preparedness for COVID-19

Scenario 1 would be a return to school in a normal manner with no restrictions. This would be initiated if the Covid-19 vaccine is available, and an immunization program is in place.

Scenario 2 is opening the campus to in person instruction five days a week with restrictions and modifications including 6 feet of distance between desks. All students would attend five days. 

Scenario 3 We would implement a program where families are split into two groups, with one group attending school two days a week and the second group attending on the alternate days: Monday/Wednesday Session or Tuesday/Thursday Session.  All students would have two in person instruction days, and three days virtual instruction.

Scenario 4 would be the full closure of the school building, with all students participating in full remote virtual learning.

After careful consideration and planning with local and regional school leaders, the Diocese of Covington and our own reopening task force, Saint Thomas School will begin the school year with Scenario 2. Scenario 2 is what most schools in the Diocese of Covington are using as their opening plan.

For families who are uneasy about sending children to school full time with a face-to-face instructional model, we are offering synchronous non-traditional instruction (NTI).  Saint Thomas School should be contacted as soon as possible if you choose to use this option so that we can make the necessary preparations and acquire the necessary resources.  In synchronous NTI, teachers would record or stream certain lessons and send to students at home.  Students at home would follow the class schedule of their peers and participate remotely using Google Classroom and other technology resources.  Students would be in sync with their classmates. We will do our best to work with parents to ensure the best outcome in the non-traditional model. 

Our policies and expectations are intended to create the safest, healthiest environment for all of our students and staff. These policies and expectations are necessary and critical for a safe reopening.  

Two facts need to be acknowledged and understood in this new reality of attending school in a pandemic: 

1.    Over 200 precious students in grades preschool – 8th grade are attending Saint Thomas School.

2.    Over 25 adults who compassionately and professionally serve the students and families of this school are more at risk of contracting the virus and experiencing the severe complications associated with this disease.

We all need to commit to doing everything we can to protect both our students and our staff. I am confident that if we diligently follow the expectations shared by the public health authorities and the Diocese of Covington, we can be assured that our learning environment will be as safe as possible for all our students, staff, and families.

The overall guidelines for opening school at Scenario 2 include the following:

  1. School will start on Wednesday, August 19 with a full day of in person instruction for grades 1-8.
    • Kindergarten will start with half day instruction on August 19 & 20, and a full day on August 21.
    • Preschool dates will be communicated to Preschool Families. Preschool starts in September. 
  2. All staff will be required to wear face masks throughout the day as mandated by the Kentucky Department of Health.
  3. All staff and students will be required to perform a daily personal health assessment before coming to school.
    • Details about this are outlined in the Acknowledgement of Responsibility linked here.
  4. All staff and students will have their temperature taken upon arrival to the building.
    • Individuals with a temperature of 100.4 or more will be refused entry.
    • To facilitate this, our drop off procedures will be changed. More details to follow.
    • Students will go directly to their homeroom and not gather in the gym or cafeteria.
  5. All visitors and volunteers will be limited and will be required to have their temperature taken and to wear a face mask.
  6. Students in grades 1-8 will be required to wear a face mask when they are entering or exiting the building (from the car to their desk), in the hallways, anytime they leave their homeroom.  We are able to safely distance all of our students in the classroom so that masks are not required while students are at their desks.  Mask wearing for students will be at a minimum but will still be required.
    • The Diocese of Covington, the Kentucky Department of Health (KDH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) all agree that masks play an important role in disease prevention.
    • To ensure consistency, Saint Thomas will provide all students with five colored masks to be worn at Saint Thomas. 
    • More mask packs will be available to purchase
    • Students in preschool and kindergarten are not required to wear masks, but if a family chooses to have their preschool or kindergarten student wear a mask, we will comply with the family wishes
  7. We will provide at least 6 feet of distance between students at their desks and set up classrooms where students are facing the same direction as recommended by the AAP and the CDC.
  8. Increased cleaning and disinfecting will occur during the day and at night. High traffic areas, frequently touched items and restrooms will be sanitized frequently during the day.
  9.  Lunch will take place in the cafeteria.  Lunch periods will be staggered to allow for essential cleaning between sessions.  The cafeteria will provide food as usual, but menu changes should be expected.
    • In the cafeteria, tables will be setup in large rectangles that will allow social interaction between students while social distancing.
    • As weather allows, classes will be able to eat outside.
  10. Water fountains will be closed, but new bottle fillers will be available.  Students are encouraged to bring their own water bottle.
  11. Recess schedules will be staggered to avoid large gatherings of students on the playground at the same time.
  12. Students and staff will utilize best practices for healthy hygiene including increased hand washing and frequent hand sanitization.
  13. We ask that all students have a backpack to organize their books and supplies. We will allow all students to use their backpack to transport books and supplies to and from school.  Students will not use school lockers. We will limit the sharing of materials and supplies.
  14. We ask that all students have a backpack to organize their books and supplies. We will allow all students to use their backpack to transport books and supplies to and from school.  Students will not use school lockers. We will limit the sharing of materials and supplies.
  15. Students will begin to use Google Classroom and other technology tools early in the school year to ensure fluency should the need arise to transition to full NTI
    • Parents will have training opportunities shortly after the opening of school to familiarize themselves with our online platforms
  16. School Mass schedules will be modified to allow for proper distancing and will follow the protocols in place for Parish Liturgies
  17. Large gatherings and field trips are cancelled until further notice
  18. As much as possible, meetings will occur virtually for adults, as recommended by the Diocese of Covington, the AAP, CDC, KDE and the KDH.
  19. We are researching programs and resources to support the social-emotional needs of students, staff, and families.

Saint Thomas School is committed to these overall guiding expectations to provide a safe learning environment for students and staff. As we get closer to the opening of school, these expectations may be modified or updated to address the situation in August or during the school year.

Abrupt changes and school closures continue to be a possibility. Please plan for the worst-case scenario, which would be the immediate implementation of Scenario 4 remote learning. It is possible that school could close anywhere from 2-30 days due to a COVID-19 infection in the building or closure by the Northern Kentucky Department of Health, Campbell County or the State of Kentucky.  We will make our own announcements about closures and will not follow any other school district closing.  

Finally, we ask for your prayers, patience and support as we all navigate these uncharted days ahead of us. I do know that your child/ren and our students will be looking at and listening to how the adults cope with this situation for an example of how they should cope. One item I am confident about is that these measures are temporary and will pass. We have hope that a bright future awaits all of us.

Know of our prayers for you and your families.  I have sent the names of the students to your child’s teachers and have asked them to pray for them by name daily.

We are in this together! Our Saint Thomas Community is a fantastic, resilient community that can face any challenge including this one.  I have faith that we can come together and love, support and care for each other.  

Let us all walk in Love, as Christ has loved us.  Let us pray for each other through the Intercession of Christ, the Divine Teacher,

Fr. Ross Kelsch
School Administrator

 

 

 




 

Friday, June 26, 2020

Dear Parents of Saint Thomas School,

We wanted to provide you and your family with an update about the reopening of Saint Thomas School in August.

Fr. Ray, Mrs. Holtz and I have spent many hours in meetings with our Reopening Task Force, the Diocese of Covington, and other local school administrators. The parent surveys were considered heavily, and we now have our decision. 

Our Task Force is comprised of the following:

Fr. Ross Kelsch,
School Administrator
Mrs. Robin Holtz,
Asst. School Administrator
Mrs. Alexa BaudendistelDr. John Bruns, MD
Mrs. Orla BowmanMr. Matthew Hollenkamp
Ms. Elizabeth GruenschlaegerMrs. Lisa McClinton
Mrs. Karly Meyer
Ms. Kristen Schnell

This week the Kentucky Department of Education released the Guidance on Safety Expectations and Best Practices for Kentucky Schools. This document will serve as our guide for keeping our students and staff safe while at school. 

Below are some general decisions that have been made, but there are a many more details to finalize. We will share our full, detailed plan before school begins.

  1. School will begin on Wednesday, August 19. This will be a full day of school.
  2. Opening of the School Year events like open house will be modified.
  3. All students and staff will return to school together with safety protocols in place. There will be significant changes in procedures and practices. 
  4. Information about Lunch will be forthcoming .
  5. Families will have the option to choose Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI). If you think your family may want to go with this option, please contact Fr. Ross at [email protected] as soon as possible so that we may begin arrangements.
  6. Wearing masks will be the norm for all students in Grades 1-8 and every faculty and staff member. This is the norm for Public Schools in Kentucky and for all schools in the Diocese of Covington.
    • The general rule is this: less than 6 feet apart- wear masks, 6 feet apart or more, no masks.
    • In general, when students are at their desks in their classroom, they should be able to maintain a 6-foot distance. While at their desks, students will be able to remove their masks.
    • Saint Thomas will provide 5 masks for each student – color coded for each day of the school week.
    • Students in Preschool and Kindergarten are exempt from the mask requirement.

We are very excited to get back into the building and to begin the 2020-2021 School Year. There are lots of exciting things to show you and your students. Please begin to speak with children about this plan in a positive manner (even if you don’t feel positive about it). Your children may not be used to wearing masks, but they can be educated about the reason for them. We have witnessed children in the community wearing them successfully. We will be providing some more tips for you on how help your children adjust to our safety modifications.

While the start of the school year will look different, our team of faculty and staff are dedicated to making the 2020-2021 School Year the most positive experience for your child.

Thank you for your prayers and support as we continue to plan for an awesome school year!

In Christ,

Fr. Ross Kelsch
School Administrator
[email protected]