With schools resuming in-person learning later this month, Grand Island’s three parochial schools said they are taking necessary steps to ensure student safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to information on its website, Grand Island Central Catholic has various reopening plans depending on the Central District Health Department’s COVID-19 risk dial. GICC’s first day of school is Aug. 11.
If the health risk is low in the area, GICC will require students to wear face masks between classes and in places where social distancing is not possible. Masks may be removed only if students are spaced properly and the instructor gives permission to remove them.
GICC students will have their temperature taken upon arrival at school.
Visitors also will be required to wear face masks and undergo a health screening.
GICC Principal Jordan Engle said the school is working to procure temperature scanners to allow students to walk through to get their temperatures taken at the beginning of each school day.
The school said all students and staff members will be provided two masks, but those wanting to bring their own masks can do so as long as they are a solid color and do not have a design. Individuals wishing to purchase additional masks also may do so.
At all risk levels, parents are asked not to come into the school building to pick up or drop off students.
If the risk dial is moderate or high, students will be questioned for COVID-19 symptoms in addition to having a temperature check. The rules for masks will remain the same as the low risk level in the moderate level. However, if the health department’s risk dial is high, GICC said students will remain in face masks “as often as possible,” with instructors using discretion as guided by school administration.
“If we are well into the orange (high risk level), or if we are seeing a lot of community spread, then we are going to tell our teachers that even if students are safe, it would be best to keep them in masks,” Engle said.
He added the school understands it may not be possible for students to wear a face mask all day and that it currently is discussing ways to allow a student to take a “mask break” if needed.
With lunch, if the risk is high, students will eat in the cafeteria and in auxiliary spaces to social distance as much as possible. Students would be allowed to eat in classrooms.
For school events, if the risk dial is high, the number of people admitted, as well as spacing, will adhere to social distancing guidelines. All visitors would be required to wear masks at all times and undergo health screenings.
If the CDHD risk dial is at a severe level, GICC said it is likely that education would switch to a virtual setting. However, if in-person classes continue, students will be required to wear masks at all times, students will eat lunch in extra shifts and social distancing will be enforced.
Visitors to the school would be required to call the school and schedule an appointment. They would undergo a health screening prior to entering the building.
For school events, if the risk dial is at a severe level, GICC said any event that can be held without spectators and streamed on social media will be hosted as such. The school said any event that involves groups that cannot be socially distanced likely will be canceled.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the CDHD risk dial is at 1.9, which is a moderate level, but is on the fringe of being in the high level.
GICC said students exhibiting symptoms will be asked to stay home until they have been seen by a medical professional. Students who are quarantined will be asked to stay home until they have tested negative or their quarantine time has expired.
“Another really important piece of communication that we are actively taking part in is making sure that we stay updated with the hospital in terms of where they are at,” Engle said. “If the hospital is getting overwhelmed, then we are definitely going to ramp up our response to make sure we are not contributing to filling up too many hospital beds.”
Brendel Maier, president of the Heartland Lutheran High School board, said the school plans to be open for in-person learning when school begins for freshmen on Aug. 11 and for grades 10-12 on Aug. 12.
“We are going to do our best to try and do social distancing in the classroom,” Maier said. “We are hoping that we can do that and will not have to have the students wear face masks in the classroom. We know that during passing periods and some other times, we are definitely going to have to wear face masks.”
He said that while face masks will not be required at Heartland Lutheran, if any student, staff member or teacher wants to wear a mask they may do so. Temperature checks also will be conducted at the front doors each school day.
Brent Peterson, president of the Trinity Lutheran School board, said the situation with COVID-19 is fluid and changes every day, but that the school has a plan in place for the first day of school Aug. 13.
Peterson said Trinity Lutheran will have 100% in-person learning unless the Central District Health Department tells the school it has to resort to e-learning.
He said all students, staff members and teachers will be required to wear face masks. Trinity Lutheran will provide two masks to each student.
“We were initially advised that we were small enough that we could go without them, but you run the risk of having more people being quarantined than needed,” Peterson said. “Our goal is to have as much face-to-face contact between the teachers and students (as possible) and this is the best way to do that.”
He said Trinity Lutheran also will have temperature checks for students when they enter the building in the morning. With the school having small class sizes, maintaining proper social distancing should be easy.