June 24, 2020
Dear Parents of Sacred Heart Students,
First, we want to reiterate our sincere appreciation of your adaptability and commitment to our school during the Spring 2020 semester. The sudden closing of our school took us all by surprise and we did the best we could to adjust in the moment. Now, as we are looking forward to returning to school in August, we are working diligently to be prepared for whatever the school year may bring. Though typically off work during the Summer, our teachers will be working throughout July to prepare for the unique challenges of the year ahead.
As are all schools, we are closely following the decisions and recommendation of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), as well as watching the plans being made in both our local public schools and in Catholic schools around the state. Decisions specific to Sacred Heart will be made in accordance with the Diocese of Little Rock and our accrediting organization, ANSAA (Arkansas Nonpublic School Accrediting Association).
Our planning efforts at Sacred Heart are being led by our Covid Task Force. Members of the task force have been assigned areas of focus; these are listed below and we encourage you to reach out to our members if you have questions or want to help in this work. We anticipate that more information will be shared over the coming weeks, but for now we want to share the following information with you. We will communicate final plans as we receive guidance from the above mentioned organizations.
When is the first day of the 2020-2021 school year?
Students’ first day of school is on Wednesday, August 12th, 2020. The only revision would be based on ADH requirements, which is not expected. The school calendar can be found here (link).
What are the requirements for face coverings?
We are receiving weekly, if not daily, updates on many COVID topics, including face coverings.
Guidelines are expected to be revised soon at the state level, and requirements will be shared when those details are finalized. We do expect that teachers will wear face coverings when they enter school and may remove it during instruction, but must maintin adequate distance as feasilby possible when covering is off.
What will the school week and school day look like for my child?
We plan that students will attend school each day on a very traditional schedule as in the past to the highest extent possible. Our goal for students is to establish a sense of normalcy with school. We also will make every effort to ensure safety, beginning with school drop-off. Both drop off and pick up will be curbside only and parents are discouraged from entering the buildings if possible. Each morning, students will be met in the car line by a staff member who will take their temperature before exiting their car; high school drivers will have their temperature checked prior to entering the building. Staggered drop off times may be considered. Anyone with a temperature of 100°F or higher will be asked to return home until they are 72 hours fever free without medication.
School leaders will work diligently to create a schedule and transitions to minimize close physical interactions and adhere to social distancing recommendations, while also allowing for normal school activities. More details about daily schedules will be provided later in the summer, including recess and PE for elementary students. It is our intention to keep these activities as close to normal as guidelines allow.
Will social distancing guidelines be observed?
To the degree that is feasibly possible, social distancing recommendations will be observed based on the guidance we receive from ADH. Reorganization of classrooms and other learning spaces will also take place in order to increase space between students. We will balance this with not limiting students’ need to interact and communicate with their teachers and classmates.
Where will my student eat lunch?
We would like to continue service in our cafeteria, but given its size, this may not be possible with new guidelines. In the event we cannot use the cafeteria space, we are preparing for our students to eat lunch in their classrooms. Students may bring their lunch or the cafeteria will deliver lunches to the classrooms.
What special cleaning and sanitation procedures will take place?
Disinfecting and sanitizing continue to be top priority, with extra attention to high touch surfaces and restrooms throughout the day by our janitorial staff. Additionally, our janitorial staff will continue to fog our buildings early each morning prior to students’ arrival. Time will be provided for hand washing/sanitizing. Students will be asked to sanitize their hands each time they leave and enter a new space; dispensers have been installed at each classroom door. Desks will be sanitized between class periods. Teachers will monitor children to ensure hand washing is occurring properly. Our curriculum will also include education to our children on proper hygiene. Our offices will be outfitted with plexiglass dividers, and we plan to install water bottle fillers in lieu of using water fountains.
Will sports resume?
All sports will resume to the level allowed by state guidelines. We hope to have more guidance in the following weeks.
How will mandatory volunteer hours be handled?
We don’t yet know how much interaction we will be able to allow or what events we will be hosting, therefore, we expect to reduce the number of volunteer hours required accordingly. More information will be shared at a later date.
What will happen if a student comes to school sick?
CDC and ADH guidelines for self-isolation as well as ending self-isolation will be utilized upon arrival at school and/or if a student becomes ill at school; therefore, if a student presents with a fever and if the temperature is over the ADH guidance, the student will be sent home and will need to be fever free for 72 hours without medication before returning to school.
What will happen if an individual tests positive for COVID-19?
If this occurs, we will contact ADH directly and follow ADH’s most up to date guidance, which may include testing/quarantine of additional students and briefly closing for additional cleaning and disinfecting. The safety of our students is a number one priority and we will work closely with parents.
What if a student becomes sick during the school day? If I think my kid just has allergies, can I send them to school?
We are establishing clear protocols to address these situations. We will communicate those protocols and post them to our website. Protocols will assist parents in determining how to proceed if their child is exhibiting symptoms that could be related to Covid.
Will students and adults be screened daily?
Visitors will need to check in at the school office and will have their temperature checked and be required to answer screening questions. In general, visitors will be very limited in order to reduce the opportunity for contamination.
Following temperature checks prior to entering the buildings for all staff and students, teachers will review the following questions with students once they are in the classroom:
Will we have an open house/registration for 2020-2021?
We will organize a modified version of our traditional open house and registration, which will take place in August. More information will be shared closer to that time.
What will happen if Sacred Heart is required to close again?
It is critical that no matter where learning occurs, our students continue to receive the quality education expected at Sacred Heart. Regardless of the method of delivery, new learning will occur, engagement will be expected, and grades will be taken.
“Blended learning” allows for students to receive direct instruction (whether in person or through recorded lessons) in combination with digital content and lessons. Sacred Heart is creating a detailed blended learning plan for all students to move from on-site to at-home instruction at any time. Blended learning will become part of our “new normal” on campus as teams work to greatly increase and improve our digital content on Google Classroom, including resources and recordings of lessons.
Our blended learning approach will also allow students who become ill or must be quarantined for a short amount of time to continue learning grade level and content standards even when they cannot be physically present in the classroom.
We do recognize that some students need additional assistance, and we are currently considering options for how we can best meet the needs of all SH families.
Our teachers are working now to prepare for the year ahead. We will be sharing more information as we get closer to August. Our expectations for AMI will entail:
If at some point I feel it is not in my child’s best interest to return to school, what are my options?
Sacred Heart is a small school and we plan to capitalize on our small size to best serve the individual interests of all students. We aim to add flexible options for families on a case by case basis. Please reach out to us if you need to discuss options.
What about weekly school Mass? What about faith formation in the event of AMI?
Sacred Heart will follow capacity limits for Mass attendance. This may mean dividing our students into two Mass times with high school and elementary attending separately. We know that many of our parents and grandparents enjoy and value attending school Mass and we will do all we can to accommodate you if space is available.
We are specifically working on methods to keep our faith formation in the forefront in the event of AMI. Streaming of our weekly school Mass is one option as well as providing other resources and online activities to keep our children engaged and learning about our faith.
What about learning gaps from last Spring?
We want to ensure you that we will do all we can to make sure that your child(ren)’s needs are met. We have heard concerns from our parents and on August 3-4 we will conduct student assessments for those entering K-2nd grades to identify areas of deficiency. This information will help our teachers prepare based on the needs of the students entering their classes. During the first few weeks of school, we will also administer the NWEA MAP test to students in K-8. This will help determine any learning gaps at the beginning of the school year and provide teachers with the ability to tailor instruction. The NWEA MAP test will also be given subsequently throughout the school year to measure growth and proficiency.
In the event of an extended AMI period, what about tuition?
We know that you have options and we are committed in our preparations to still provide the high academic standards as well as focus on faith that you have depended on at Sacred Heart. We also recognize that an extended AMI period may cause additional financial hardship and stress for some of our families. We are committed to keeping our Sacred Heart students. During this pandemic, our children are under much uncertainty and stress. We are a family at Sacred Heart, and we know that it is in our children’s best interest to keep them in a familiar environment. We are evaluating the best ways to assist these families. Please be assured, it is our highest priority to work with these families as needed to insure their children remain at Sacred Heart.
Should I buy a Chromebook for my elementary student?
Thanks to the help of South Conway County School District, we received Title funds to purchase classroom sets of chromebooks for all K-6 grades. In the event of AMI, chromebooks will be available to send home with all students K-6 this year. Beginning last year, 7-12 grade students purchased their own chromebooks. For incoming 7th grade students, it is recommended that you purchase a chromebook to use for the upcoming high school years. However, if this is a hardship for any student this year in grades 7-12, we can provide a chromebook on a case by case basis.
Can our school financially survive the pandemic?
Yes! The School Board finance committee has completed a balanced budget for the 2020-2021 school year and it will be reviewed for approval during Executive Session of the July School Board meeting. We have made adjustments to our budget, realizing that some fundraisers will not be able to proceed this school year, and were still able to balance the budget with no adverse consequences to our school. We have also received financial support through the CARES Act. We are in good financial shape and the incredible support for the Stay at Home Bazaar only strengthened our position. Thank you all for your support. Rest assured, Sacred Heart will weather this crisis and come out stronger than ever. That’s what families do.
Why choose Sacred Heart during this time?
We know that you chose Sacred Heart for your children because you value Catholic education and our high academic standards. We remain committed to delivering both, even if we have to move online for a period of time. In addition to working with our teachers to prepare for at-home learning, we are also developing ways to enhance opportunities for Catholic faith formation and build community among our Sacred Heart family. We ask you to join us in the endeavor if you have an interest in doing so. It remains paramount to our mission to “enlighten minds, enrich souls, and inspire hearts.”
Members of the Covid Task Force are currently working on plans to address the following areas of concern. Please feel free to contact task force members shown below if you have suggestions, comments or would like to volunteer in any of the following areas.
Drop-off/pick up/lunch Buddy Greeson
Recess/PE Patti Bottoms
Protocols for sickness Sandy Greeson
Sanitization of school Alisha Koonce
Google Classroom Buddy Greeson
Open House Alisha Koonce
Registration Annise Ryan/Barbi Kordsmeier
Social Distancing/classroom setup Buddy Greeson
Faith Formation Mary Kay Wiedower
Communication Alisha Koonce/Angie Hartman/Haylee Beck/Jennifer Roscoe