CHICAGO - Hundreds of students will not be returning to the classroom this week. St. Alexander Elementary School in Palos Heights has suspended classes until September 8. This, after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. A second employee is showing symptoms. A letter to parents says the staff members did not have contact with students.
And, St. Rita of Cascia High School is also making changes due to COVID. The change comes after the school was connected to four confirmed cases of COVID-19. In addition, Loyola Academy in Wilmette went back to school last week. They now have six COVID cases.
St. Rita’s students returned to school Monday with the usual fanfare, but with plenty of changes, like only having 15 students in a classroom. They must wear masks all day except when eating, and get their temperature taken every morning.
“They were allowed to go to their lockers in a staggered fashion. When they entered the hallway they were to stay to the right. We even taped down the hallways in the entire building to ensure that students knew where to walk,” said Sante Iacovelli, St. Rita’s principal.
It was a hybrid plan – every other day in the classroom and every other day with virtual learning from home, and the school was kept impeccably clean.
“Even at the end of class the teachers would spray disinfectant on the desk. The students were wiping everything down. The maintenance staff was cleaning the hallways throughout the periods between classes. Lunch periods went really well.The effort that everybody put in in such a positive way and then this happened was very, very disappointing,” said Dr. James Quaid, St. Rita’s president.
Administrators even gave parents the option to keep kids home. Thirteen percent were doing so. Then word came that two people at St. Rita’s came down with the virus, and then two more. So, a decision was made to do school from home for the next two weeks, and then return to a hybrid plan with new technology they hope will make learning from home easier.
“We have this thing called a swivel so teachers will be able to teach from their classroom even though there won’t be students in there. They’ll be able to have this monitor sort of follow them around the room so they can use a chalkboard. Their son’s safety is always gonna be our highest priority and we’ve really worked hard to make this the safest environment that we can,” said Iacovelli.
St. Rita’s and Loyola Academy are independent of the Archdiocese schools. A spokesperson for the Archdiocese tells us they have no intention of changing their plans to keep students in the classroom this fall, not at home.