Message from the Head of School

Our Path Forward is the school's plan for reopening in the fall. See below for updates.

Dear Saint Columbkille Families,

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has released its initial guidance on how we may reopen in person for the 2020-2021 school year. While DESE will release more detailed guidelines throughout this summer, they have shared valuable information that allows us to plan Our Path Forward.

Our Path Forward
Our Path Forward is our plan for reopening in the fall. Several teams are working on essential components of the plan, including health and safety, academics and instruction, finances, community engagement, and more. In all of our planning, we are guided by these five principles:

  • We prioritize the health and safety of our students, their families, and our faculty and staff.
  • We value the opportunity to learn in person and to gather as a school community.
  • We must plan and be prepared for multiple scenarios in case we shift to remote learning or a hybrid of in person instruction and remote learning.
  • We will provide outstanding academic instruction, meaningful faith formation, and engaging community experiences.
  • We will leverage our partnership with Boston College and with other health and education experts.

Throughout the summer, you can expect an email from me every Monday afternoon explaining various aspects of our plan and sharing updates. We recognize that state requirements and recommendations might change as the nature of the pandemic changes. Therefore, we may need to adjust our plans at times. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

Health and Safety
DESE referenced several studies that show schools can reopen without posing significant risk to health and safety. Important findings include that schools do not appear to have played a major role in COVID-10 transmission and that rates of infection tend to be lower for children than for adults.

To ensure the health of our students, faculty and staff, and greater community, DESE has included the following requirements for reopening:

  • Masks: All adults and students in second grade and above are required to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth. Because DESE addressed second grade and above, we are in the process of getting expert medical advice regarding our policies for early childhood students. We are exploring classroom layouts that can maximize the length of mask breaks while in classrooms. In future emails, we will share information about what kind of masks students will wear, exceptions for health and safety reasons, and information about our policy for younger students.
  • Physical distance: DESE is requiring that student desks be spaced 3 feet apart and that all desks are facing the same direction. We are planning classroom layouts that have desks spaced 6 feet apart. In future emails, we will share information about how the physical distance requirements will be implemented in various school settings, including early childhood classrooms, hallways, and more.
  • Small groups: While DESE did not provide a maximum number of students per class, schools are encouraged to minimize the mixing of student groups throughout the day. Our Path Forward committees will address how these recommendations will impact before and after school care, as well as clubs and extracurriculars.
  • Nursing facilities: All schools are required to have an isolation room in case a student exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 while at school. A renovation of our current nursing station is already underway to ensure that we have an appropriate isolation room, as well as an expanded nursing facility.
  • Hand hygiene: Students and staff are required to wash hands or sanitize hands upon arrival, before eating, before putting on and taking off masks, and before dismissal. We are adding additional hand washing stations and hand sanitizer dispensers to facilitate proper hand hygiene.

Planning and Preparation
Schools must submit three plans for reopening: in person, remote, and a hybrid. While we are planning to reopen in person as scheduled, we already anticipated the need to plan and be prepared for these three scenarios. We are encouraged by the DESE guidance that we can reopen in person. We do understand that some students may need to stay at home due to a need for quarantining or to health concerns. Therefore, our plans will include strategies and staffing to support students who may need to engage in remote learning.

Your Input
We need to understand our families’ needs and concerns as we are planning Our Path Forward. We are preparing a brief parent survey that will be emailed on Wednesday, July 1st, and we will follow up with phone calls throughout the month of July. Thank you in advance for taking a few moments to share your perspective.

Ms. Jennifer Kowieski
Incoming Head of School