Unicorn masks, thermometers and stickered-hallways greet students returning to in-school instruction

August 27, 2020 | 12:09 am

Updated August 27, 2020 | 12:43 am

Photo provided by Owensboro Catholic Schools

Owensboro Catholic Schools and Grace Christian Academy, a newly launched high school in Owensboro, welcomed students through their staff-guarded doors Wednesday morning after temperature, mask and COVID-19 symptom checks. 

April Flood, a technology teacher at Owensboro Catholic Middle School, expressed her excitement for reuniting with the students and staff, who even exchanged “air hugs” before separating into their distanced classrooms.

“When I first saw them, honestly, it was just pure joy and pure excitement,” Flood said. “I think they needed it. I think we needed it.” 

In addition to temperature checks before entering buildings, students, faculty and staff have procedures in place for how to enter classrooms, how to eat lunch and how to walk down hallways. 

Keith Osborne, chief administrative officer for Owensboro Catholic Schools, observed that students were able to easily settle into their new classes and learn the new protocols — such as students taking turns visiting their lockers each morning. 

“We want to continue to be as careful as possible,” Osborne said. 

Stickers cover the schools: in classrooms, hallways directing one-way traffic and in the lunchroom. 

All students, staff and faculty wear masks throughout the day except while eating lunch. Although students at Owensboro Catholic Schools wear uniforms, the school administrators decided to let students be creative and express themselves with their face masks. 

“We just wanted them to have a little bit of fun with it,” Osborne said.

And they did. Students covered their faces with unicorns, plaid and various shades of the rainbow. 

“It is fun to see a bit of personality in their masks,” Flood said. “The kids did great with it. I was so proud of our kids today.” 

Asked whether she felt nervous at any point in the past few weeks, Flood said that any reservations she may have had earlier this summer vanished when she learned how the administration planned each detail of the return to in-person classes. 

Teachers, principals and administrators worked “tirelessly” to create a comprehensive plan to ensure a successful start to the year, according to Flood, who said, “you have to love what you’re doing to make this work.” 

The teachers have virtual education plans in case individual students need to learn from home or if the school closes during an outbreak. 

But at this time, Flood appreciates that she can look forward to the new school year, even if it looks a little different.  

Wednesday, Owensboro’s new high school, Grace Christian Academy, welcomed its first freshman class to its temporary schooling facilities at Yellow Creek Baptist Church. 

Grace Christian Academy, self-described as “an independent, non-denominational, college preparatory high school,” currently has nine students enrolled and six spots open. 

“The social distancing is not a problem at all,” said Kristyn Gabbert, a longtime regional educator that serves as both the associate administrator and English teacher. 

The students attend most classes together, but some classes, such as Spanish and mathematics, are separated based on student comprehension. All students and staff maintain social distance throughout the school day and in the lunchroom. 

Prior to opening, the academy submitted a plan to the state health department for review. They created several revisions based on feedback but chose to ignore the state guidance urging schools to delay opening until Sept. 28 due to class size, according to Gabbert. 

“We really felt like we could still provide a healthy environment because our enrollment is feasible for social distancing, and students are very cooperative and wearing their masks,” Gabbert said.

August 27, 2020 | 12:09 am

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