WELCOME BACK AS ST. MATTHEW PREPARES TO RETURN TO SCHOOL FOR IN-PERSON LEARNING
August 13, 2020
Last Tuesday, my 22 year-old niece underwent open-heart surgery. We have been praying and following her journey quite intensely, first because she is our niece and we love her, but secondly because she suffers from a similar heart defect as my daughter, and my daughter will eventually need a very similar surgery.
To prepare for this major moment, Ana's parents sought guidance from various expert cardiologists, analyzed all of the data, weighed all of the benefits as well as the risks, and then prayed for God's wisdom and guidance as they scheduled the procedure. Three days after experiencing open-heart surgery, Ana was discharged and returned home with a great prognosis!
In similar fashion, the St. Matthew Return To School Task Force has been working diligently to prepare for a significant moment in St. Matthew's history as they determine how to best educate children during a pandemic. To assist them in this great responsibility, they have also sought guidance from credible sources of information such as the Governor's Roadmap, CDC, Oakland County Health Department, Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools, and our Superintendent of Lutheran Schools, Mr. Travis Grulke. They have worked tirelessly to discuss the issues and weigh the benefits as well as the risks, but, most importantly, they also prayed for God's wisdom and guidance throughout this entire process. As a result, they have peace with their decision to open school in-person this school year with numerous safety precautions to keep our students and staff as safe as possible. This time, we believed that our small size is a blessing, and as a team of parents and staff, we can implement all necessary safety procedures as indicated by the Oakland County Health Department, CDC, as well as the Governor's Roadmap to Safely Return To School. The initial Phase 4 Plan to Return to School has been updated and finalized. In addition, here are some of the significant highlights:
1. As directed by the Oakland County Health Department, the school day will begin with parents screening their children before they leave home to ensure each child has no sign of a fever, cough, or shortness of breath.
We acknowledge that our partnership with our parents is imperative for our success to open and that we need to work together to ensure that children and staff who are sick remain home. Therefore, details will follow very soon regarding the process to complete daily at-home screening and submit it to the school office as we are still investigating means to make this happen as efficiently and effectively as possible.
2. Student arrival times will be staggered alphabetically. Students will enter through assigned doors, allowing social distance of six feet while entering the building. (Signs will be posted to assist with distancing.) To minimize the number of people in the building, parents of students in grades K - 8 will not be allowed to enter. However, for Preschool students, one parent can enter the building with their child. A schedule of assigned times and doors will be sent home next week. In following with LARA (Michigan Licensing And Regulatory Affairs) licensing requirements, all Preschoolers will need to have their temperature's taken by a staff member before entering the building.
3. Students will cleanse their hands using the hands-free hand sanitizing stations located at each entry upon entrance to the building. Each classroom will also have a hands-free hand sanitation dispenser for use.
4. All students in Preschool through Grade 8, all staff members, and any adult in the building are required to wear masks into the building.
5. As Executive Orders have changed during the past few weeks, our position on masks has also changed. The Task Force believes that the best way to keep everyone safe as we return to in-person learning is to start by taking the most conservative avenue. As a result, all students in grades K - 8 will wear masks throughout the day, unless an underlying medical condition supported by a physician's note indicates that is not possible. Teachers in grades K-5 will also be able to provide times when students can have a "mask break" following appropriate protocols. All students and staff can remove their masks when eating. St. Matthew is also renting numerous tents to allow for outdoor learning opportunities during which masks can be removed with proper social distancing. Masks can also be removed during outdoor recess when students remain with their individual classes. If classes mix during recess, masks must be worn, as indicated in the Governor's mandates.
6. Students will be dismissed through various doors, utilizing social distancing. Our dismissal procedure will remain the same with parents waiting for students to walk back to cars waiting in the back parking lot and then cars officially dismissed by a staff member when the whistle blows.
7. If a parent or any other adult needs to enter the building during the school day, that person would need to wear a mask and go through a screening protocol at the Welcome Desk at the front church entrance, which includes a temperature check and health screening questionnaire.
8. Extensive cleaning protocols will be established in the classroom regarding cleaning desk surfaces and frequently touched surfaces throughout the day. St. Matthew is also hiring an additional custodian who will clean restrooms and frequently touched surfaces throughout the school day.
9. Students will also be instructed and encouraged to use proper hygiene practices. Custodians will ensure that plenty of soap and hand sanitizer are available for students and staff.
10. Students will eat lunch either outside in the tents or in their classrooms if the weather is not conducive for outdoor dining. We are in the process of investigating possible hot lunch options.
11. Kids Care services will continue to be available before and after school. Students in grades K - 8 will need to wear a mask during these services, except during snack time.
12. Chapel will be streamed into classrooms during the months of August and September, and then we will reassess this process for the future.
13. Fall athletics are expected to occur. We will keep you updated regarding this process.
14. While our county remains in Phase 4, no type of large assembly can occur. As a result, our Progressive Dinner has been postponed. You will find other events marked as "tentative" on the School Calendar. If our county should progress to Phase 5, some of these events may return.
15. Parents/guardians must screen children daily for symptoms at home using the Staff and Student Screening Checklist prior to their students boarding the bus and/or arriving at school. Specific details regarding the process of submitting daily screening will follow soon.
16. If a child shows symptoms of COVID, parents should contact his/her pediatrician and not send that child to school. If symptoms occur during the school day, the ill child will be removed from the classroom and kept isolated in the church library with safe supervision until a parent is able to come and pick up the child from school. If a doctor requests a COVID test, that child will not be able to return to school until a negative test occurs. These students are welcome back to school with proper documentation of a negative test result and when the child is symptom-free.
17. Symptomatic students and staff will be kept home until they have tested negative for COVID-19 or have been released from isolation according toOakland County Health Department/CDC guidelines. Both guidelines state:
Students and staff can be around others after:
- 10 days since symptoms first appeared and
- 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and
- COVID-19 symptoms have improved (for example, cough, shortness of breath)
- Most people do not require testing to decide when they can be around others; however, if your healthcare provider recommends testing, they will let you know when you can resume being around others based on your test results. COVID-19 - When you are sick/end-home-isolation
18. For families that are not ready to return to in-person schooling, St. Matthew Lutheran School offers an alternative option. Ignitia is an accredited Christian-based learning platform that is a paper packet for grades 1 and 2 and online for grades 3 - 8. Ignitia allows students to learn at home through a curriculum that aligns with State Standards, which are also the basis of St. Matthew Lutheran School. A majority of the online learning platform involves students watching pre-recorded videos of Ignitia instructors teaching core subjects. St. Matthew will provide a facilitator who will monitor student progress, grade essays, and serve as a tutor. A ZOOM meeting will occur on Monday, August 17, at 7:00 p.m. for any interested families.
Since the start of in-person class instruction on August 31, 2020, we have had seven (7) postiive student COVID cases. Cases will be updated within 24 hours of the school being notified of positive test results. This case number is not intended to provide notification of possible exposure. Individuals identified as close contacts of positive cases are contacted directly by the Oakland County Health Department (or another health department) or the school and given instructions to isolate or quarantine. (Close contact means you have been within 6-ft of an infectious person for 15 minutes or more.)
Attached below is our updated Phase 4 Return to School Plan for the 2020/2021 school year.
We look forward to the exciting school year that the Lord has planned for us. We are confident that He will guide us through this new journey.
In His Love,