Saints Peter andPaul School ready to welcome students back

Chris Bowie
Saints Peter andPaul students will return to classes Monday under some new procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were put in place to ensure student and staff safety to remain open for as long as possible, Principal Alan Lammers said.

As students at Saints Peter andPaul head back to school Monday, they do so knowing they could return to virtual learning at any time.

With 183 students scheduled to attend classes in preschool through eighth grade, Principal Alan Lammers said the reopening plan is simple: be smart and be safe.

Since the school has one section for each grade, the school is treating classes like a bubble, Lammers said.

“They will be together obviously through the day,”Lammers said. “It will be the teachers that will be moving from room to room at the middle school level.”

The school will follow health guidelines based on community risk levels.

The school currently is at the green level. This relates to a moderate community spread of COVID-19 or positive cases and isolated contact tracing within the school building. Yellow levels require mitigation strategies, social distancing and could involve hybrid instruction, such as alternating days of attendance. As for red levels, this indicates substantial community spread of COVID-19 or positive cases within the school building requiring extensive contact investigation, Lammer said. This requires intensive mitigation strategies, isolated closure of areas of the school, staggered days of attendance or short- or long-term transition to distance learning.

Students will be directed to different entrances depending on grade starting Monday. Those in extended care and preschool will enter the east gym doors, while students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade will enter through the south playground doors. As for students in grades 6-8, they will enter in the west gym hallway doors, then up the steps.

During all levels of risk, students will maintain a stable group as much as possible, depending on scheduling and enrollment, Lammers said. A stable group is a small group of students who remain in a 6-foot perimeter for a duration of 15 minutes or longer. The student would normally interact on a daily bases with this group. For Saints, these stable groups will be their grade level.

Students will wear masks during movement within the building and hand sanitizer will readily be available, Lammers said.

“Our motto is if you are moving, you are wearing a mask,”he said. “We are going to be encouraging social distancing even with the teachers.”

Teachers also will wear masks.

“It’s really important for everybody in our community to make sure we wear a mask and that we set examples for kids and avoid large crowds because we really have to take care of each other,” Lammers said. “We may have our own beliefs but we do have an obligation to others in our community to do what we need to do to take care of them.”

Another factor that could determine the transition to virtual learning is information from the Cooper County Public Health Center. Although the school may consult with the diocese, decisions will based on the local situation, Lammers said.

He anticipates problems for the first couple of days, due to operational changes. Along with wearing a mask, students will have their temperature checked upon entering the building. There may be glitches that take getting used to because the arrival and dismissal procedures will be different, Lammers said.

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they will have to remain home, and based on guidance from the family’s doctor and the health center, siblings may be required to stay home, too, for a quarantine period. A similar policy applies to staff, Lammers said.

“We will work on contact tracing with the health department and follow their lead,”Lammers said.

The school is more prepared if it has to return to virtual instruction. It is more work to transition, though, Lammers said.

“It’s a whole different mindset when you are teaching elementary age kids virtually than even high school and for sure college,” he said. “Schools are about community and it’s very difficult to build community in a virtual environment.”

Keeping teachers safe is highly important. If schools have to shut down again, it’s going to be because of teacher absence, whether they are sick or whether they are quarantined, Lammers said. Effective instruction cannot be delivered in that case, he said The focus is going to be on the students as well as teachers.

“We always fall back to the belief that parents are the first and most important educators of their children, but they are hugely important in setting the example in keeping their kids safe and in helping us at school to keep them safe and the teachers safe,”Lammers said.

While the COVID-19 situation changes daily, Lammers hopes schools can remain open for at least six to eight weeks.

“We just know so much more about how to handle it now than we did back in March,”he said. “We really want to encourage parents and families outside of school to social distance, wear a mask and avoid large groups. If they want their kids in school, they’re going to have to continue good practices outside of school.”