COLORADO SPRINGS. Roughly five months after the coronavirus pandemic caused them to switch to online instruction virtually overnight, Catholic schools in the Diocese of Colorado Springs welcomed students back for full-time, in-person instruction during the third week of August.
Having students in class five days a week this fall is only possible because of the hours of training and preparation that teachers and school administrators put in over the summer, said Holly Goodwin, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Colorado Springs.
“I want to commend our principals. They have just worked tirelessly,” Goodwin said.
Among the safety precautions being taken to minimize the likelihood of a coronavirus outbreak at the schools are temperature checks, handwashing stations, and having students wear masks any time they are moving through the school building. Older students will also wear masks in their classroom.
Teachers will be doing routine cleaning of high-contact surfaces, such as doorknobs, she said.
“Despite personal feelings about masks, we are asking that — for the safety of their classmates and teachers — kids wear masks in shared areas,” Goodwin said. “We are requesting that parents approach this from the standpoint of the common good.”
Other measures being taken include having the students eat lunch with their cohorts, with food service adapted to a “grab-and-go” model rather than a conventional lunchroom with serving lines.
Teachers are also being encouraged to hold as many classes outdoors as possible, such as music and gym, as long as the weather allows it.
Nonetheless, Catholic schools are prepared to respond if a student or teacher tests positive for COVID-19, Goodwin said.
“We will have positive cases; there’s no way around that, and we are prepared for that,” she said.
The schools in the Pikes Peak region have been working closely with the El Paso County Health Department and will continue to consult with them as the school year progresses, Goodwin said.
The health department has recently expanded their capacity to administer tests and has put teachers in the same category as first responders, giving them access to immediate testing and results, she said.
For families that have health concerns that make inperson attendance too risky, schools are still offering the option of online learning.
“For parents that want (their children) to be online, we are going to stream direct instruction from the classroom,” Goodwin said. Teachers underwent intensive training in online instruction over the summer, and the schools also purchased camera equipment to facilitate remote learning, she said.
Despite the additional responsibilities being placed on teachers for monitoring their students’ health, cleaning, etc., only a handful of the 120 across the diocese chose not to return this year, Goodwin said.
“We are truly blessed to have principals and teachers who view their vocation as a ministry,” Goodwin said. “They work with joy and and always go above and beyond.”