COVID In-Depth Plan
JSerra Catholic High School — COVID-19 Update — July 17, 2020
Pursuant to Governor Newsom's reopening plan for schools announced just today, we realize we may have to open the 2020-21 school online. This is dependent upon Orange County being on the state's "watchlist" which is tied to three metrics: disease transmission rates, hospitalization rates, and hospital capacity. Orange County, as of today, is in a good spot relative to hospitalization rates and hospital capacity. Assuming that remains constant, the deciding factor in terms of in-person school will be the county's COVID-19 transmission rate.
To be removed from the watchlist, counties need to demonstrate two consecutive weeks of declining transmission rates. That can still happen, of course, prior to the second week of August. However, if we do have to start the school year remotely, we are well-positioned to provide a superior educational experience for your sons and daughters.
The letter below was prepared this week under the assumption that we would be able to start school with in-person classes. Please pay particular attention to the section on technology as it details how we have enhanced remote learning, which will be important regardless if school starts in-person or online.
In our last communication we indicated the possibility of moving to a nine-period schedule. However, a thorough review of our north campus footprint has resulted in the addition of 10 new classrooms across our three buildings. When combined with our large existing classrooms, these additional spaces have allowed us to maintain our regular seven-period schedule, create a learning environment that maximizes social distancing, and, despite the fact we are again at full enrollment with a waiting list, offer appreciably smaller class sizes.
Our bell schedule, therefore, is similar to that of last year's though you will note we have split breaks akin to how we split lunches (see Social Distancing section below).
When in-person school does resume, all students will be screened daily by having their temperature taken as they enter campus. Wellness stations will be set at each of the three gates on the north campus and at the plaza on the south campus. Each morning staff will conduct these checks and ask students to answer a series of questions regarding personal COVID-19 symptoms and those of members of their household. Similarly, all staff and visitors will follow this same protocol upon being greeted by our receptionist. Anyone with a temperature above 100.4 or those answering any of the wellness questions in the affirmative will be prohibited from entering campus.
As the state order has not been changed, we will continue to require everyone on campus to wear a mask or face shield. Medical quality masks and shields are available to staff. Students should plan to bring their own PPE to campus, and, importantly, we would recommend they have extras on their person in the event theirs is damaged or lost. The school will have extra supplies of PPE, but we do expect students to supply their own each day.
We are also investigating the options available to students and faculty in those classes that would have a large amount of respiration. For students in choir, instrumental music, and dance, we are determining alternate arrangements for their classes and very well may need to utilize outdoor space.
For those who exhibit any COVID-19 symptoms during the school day, we are creating an outdoor isolation tent where students or staff can be assessed by our nursing staff. As noted previously, anyone with verified symptoms will need to leave school immediately and be assessed by a health care provider before being able to return to campus.
The school is in the process of developing internal protocols in the event there are positive COVID-19 cases in our school community. These will be communicated at the beginning of August, prior to the start of school.
As seen in the video, all classrooms are equipped with sanitization and disinfectant stations. In our bathrooms, we have made all faucets and hand-dryers touchless and all urinals waterless. We have also made the decision to discontinue student locker use this year, as these are traditionally indoor areas where students gather. As also indicated in the video, at the end of each day our staff will be following enhanced protocols to clean and disinfect all highly trafficked areas including classrooms, hallways, and stairwells.
In terms of air quality, we have in place hospital grade, MERVE-8 air filters throughout campus. All air supplies and returns have been thoroughly disinfected. Further, an ionization filtration system has been installed in all buildings to create optimal air quality for all of our indoor spaces.
Our last letter indicated several measures we are implementing to support social distancing on campus. To provide more color to those plans, we have dramatically altered many facets of school operations. In addition to a staggered lunch, our new schedule will also stagger break. This reduces by approximately 50% the number of students on break at any given time.
Operations in the McMackin Bistro will also be greatly modified to support a quicker flow of traffic and reduced gatherings. Food options will largely be "grab and go." Fountain drinks and the self-serve coffee area have been eliminated. We have added three outdoor food stations so that many students will not even enter the Bistro. And we have made all payment methods cashless and touch-free by linking the student's identification card to their Bistro account. Moving through the Bistro, as indicated in the video, will also be different with single points for both ingress and egress. All of these measures mean the Bistro will be a place where students are in and out in a short period of time and are not unnecessarily in contact with common surfaces.
We have also dramatically expanded the area where students would eat at break or lunch. In those areas we have more than doubled our seating capacity for students by adding new tables and benches throughout the entirety of quad area.
Classroom Technology/Academic Considerations
As was previously described, video conference technology has been installed in all classrooms to support lived-streamed learning for at-home students with full integration with their fellow on-campus students. We believe this is a "game changer" for JSerra as it provides fully flexible options for families who might need to choose partially or fully live-streamed instruction for a period of time when in-person school commences. This may be a result of a student becoming sick or quarantined or due to a household member with a compromised immune system or other medical condition. Students who avail themselves of this live-stream option should consider this a temporary option. While our staff will be trained on best practices for conducting a live-streamed class, our educational philosophy is premised on students being at school for in-person instruction. If you are concerned about your child attending classes in person for the duration of this first semester, please contact your child's counselor to discuss your particular situation.
Along the same lines, if you have concerns about students congregating at drop-off or pick-up times and are interested in your child taking a permanent online class at the beginning or end of the day, please contact your child's counselor to discuss this option.
Please note we are also developing live-streaming student protocols to ensure those students at home are appropriately engaged with their class. For example, students at home will need to be present via Zoom when the class begins and attendance is taken. They will need to conform with the school dress code. Other behavioral standards are being developed to ensure at-home students receive an optimal educational experience.
In the event we are compelled by the local, state, or federal government or by a COVID-19 outbreak on campus to close school for a prescribed period, our live-streaming technology will allow our faculty and students to shift quickly to an enhanced remote learning environment. Given this scenario, the majority of our teachers will live-stream their classes from their classrooms while students at home adhere to the times found in our traditional seven-period schedule. While we hope not to employ this option, we are well-positioned if required to do so.
As noted previously, JSerra will still have extracurricular activities this upcoming school year. For our students, and, truthfully, for our staff, these events are often the lifeblood of our campus. To that end, we are excited to announce the appointment of Mrs. Jessica Summers to the position of Director of Activities. Mrs. Summers has ample experience in this role, both at JSerra and her prior school. She is already working with student leaders to help plan fun activities for our students this year.
In the realm of sports, we await the announcement of the CIF next Monday (July 20) in terms of the plans for athletic competition this year. We anticipate that all three seasons of sport will occur in the second semester beginning in January. However, JSerra and our Trinity League peers are committed to providing some form of athletics in the fall, whether that be intramurals, varsity showcase events, scrimmages against other schools, or other athletic endeavors.
There is no detailed update of this area. However, we remain committed to continuing school Mass on Wednesdays with smaller groups of students. Students not attending the weekly Mass will have participate in a spiritual activity designed by Campus Ministry during that time.
Out of State Travel
As mentioned in our prior communications, the school will not be sponsoring any out of state travel for students in the first semester.
Timeline for Decisions and Ongoing Communications
In order to ensure that all students are fully aware of our new protocols or policies before the first day of school, we have made some alterations to the school calendar. Specifically, we will be dividing the freshman class into four groups and will have a targeted orientation for each group on the mornings of August 7, 10, 11, and 12. Similarly, we will have orientations in the afternoon for the other classes on August 10 (sophomores), August 11 (juniors), and August 12 (seniors). Thus, the first full day of instruction for all Lions will be Thursday, August 13. These extra days of orientation will also be of benefit to our faculty as the extended time will be used for enhanced professional development geared toward supporting teachers' ability to use the new live-streaming technology. A more detailed calendar for these orientation dates and times will be part of our summer mailer packet sent to families next week. In light of the governor's orders today, these dates will have to be fluid.
We will also send a final reopening-of-school update at the beginning of August. Hopefully, there will be clarity as to whether or not we can start in-person school as planned. Please know we are working tirelessly to ensure your child has the best experience possible at JSerra. We are confident our above plans are designed with that end in mind. We join you in continued prayers for our world, country, and state. Thank you for your continued support.