Owensboro Catholic Schools will start the upcoming academic year on Aug. 26, with students returning in person for classes five days per week. School officials are still working on a fully finalized plan, but they released a general outline Friday.
No distance learning option will be available, with exceptions for those students who have a doctor’s note stating it is unsafe for them to be in a classroom.
“We feel it is not only important for the education that we provide to be in person, but socialization — students interacting with one another and with our teachers, not just from an academic standpoint — are vitally important,” said Keith Osborne, Chief Administrative Officer at OCS. “We feel like we can do this safely and effectively. … Unless the state or federal government shuts all schools down, we’re going to be in person.”
Osborne said they know the plan won’t be perfect when they begin the new school year, but they will be able to iron out the details as they go along.
“We know we’ll tweak and adjust, just like all educators. Teachers adjust and tweak their lessons all the time — that’s what we’re going to do as educators,” he said. “We have protocols in place, plans in place to get our students back in five days a week.”
No distance learning, with exceptions
There will not be a full-time online learning option like the Virtual Academy that has been adopted by Owensboro Public Schools and is in the proposal for Daviess County Public Schools.
Those districts created online-only options in part to help limit the number of students returning to in-person classes, allowing for greater social distancing.
In a video message from Osborne and OCS President Tom Lily, they said distance learning was not an effective method of teaching and would not be a part of the primary plan for their school system.
“To us it wouldn’t matter what our student population is, our faith and our academics are second to none,” Osborne said. “We feel like that personal component that we emphasize day-in and day-out is hard to duplicate online. We just want (the students) in our buildings.”
Exceptions will be made for those with compromised immune systems.
“We’re not going to provide distance learning unless your child has a physician’s note declaring a compromised immune system,” Lilly said in the video. “We’re going to provide that. We want to help. But that means when things are clear, you intend on using primary education.”
OCS typically uses DCPS buses to provide transportation to and from school. However, DCPS may soon adopt a reopening plan that will include roughly 40% of students attending in-person classes each day except Wednesday — when there will be no in-person learning.
Osborne said they have worked out a plan with DCPS that will allow OCS to use the buses four days per week.
“We will be able to ride buses Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. … If they don’t run, we’ll just have parents get their kids to school the best they can — share rides with neighbors, if they can drop them off,” he said. “They can make adjustments to have their kids in our after-school programs until they can get back by to pick them up in the afternoon. That will be an area where we continue to tweak until we get it right.”
Positive COVID-19 test
Osborne said the administration is working with the Green River District Health Department to finalize the processes if a student or staff test positive for the coronavirus.
“Primarily what we have discussed at this point is that student will be tested and then the Health Department will come in and do some contact tracing, and they will be responsible for that,” Osborne said. “Initially only that student would be removed unless other students who sat around that student started showing symptoms.”
Osborne and Lilly both stressed they would follow local, state and federal guidelines as they continue to finalize reopening plans.
Temperatures will be taken every day at every entrance before anyone is allowed to enter the building. Extra hand washing opportunities will be made available. Masks will be required when anyone is in motion or not able to remain 6 feet apart. Sanitization throughout the school will be increased.
“We want to convey the meaning of being safe, but we also are going to do the best job that we can do to provide an atmosphere of faith, of hope, of joy, and education,” Lilly said in the video. “Education won’t look the same this year. … We believe with the team that we have, we’re going to provide the best education that a child can receive under these circumstances.”
Each campus will have site-specific plans relating to other things like entry and exit, classroom and hallways monitoring, and lunchrooms.
Lilly said those plans will be communicated soon.
“We’re just looking at all of those guidelines from the CDC and the Health Department and complying with them,” Osborne said. “There will be some adjustments. We will be flexible enough to adjust so we can continue to be in school every day.”
In an email Friday OCS officials said a Return to School Plan will be shared next week along with important videos.
OCS will be continually sending out information regarding reopening plans along with other back-to-school information.
Families not already subscribed can click here to receive information from the OCS Central Office and administration, or to update their email list preferences if a student is transitioning to another campus this year.