Health and Safety
What does “reopening our schools” really mean?
Gathering as a school community is an integral part of Catholic education. Our plan is to reopen our school buildings to students this fall. This means that all students are welcome to return to classes for face-to-face instruction. We have developed an in-depth plan that addresses numerous aspects of the reopening process, and how schools will function once reopened.
Will students be safe when school is reopened?
Safety is always our top priority in Catholic education. In constructing our reopening plan, we have closely studied guidance from federal and state authorities.
Who decides when a school has met the requirements to reopen? When will this happen?
Our plan includes specific requirements that schools must meet in order to reopen. Schools must complete a checklist and submit it to the archdiocese for review. In completing this checklist, schools have been asked to form two “Reopening Teams,” one for Health and Safety and a second for Academics. The teams will help the principal think through the school’s specific reopening strategy and complete the checklist of requirements. The archdiocese will determine if/when a school is ready to reopen.
Will all students be allowed to return to school at the same time?
Yes. Our plan provides for the return of all Catholic school students for full-day instruction.
Will students and Staff need to wear masks at school?
Yes. As per directives of the state, all 6-12 students will need to wear masks while at school. Masks may be removed for brief periods of time under certain circumstances (such as outdoor play or lunch). However, when masks are removed, students must remain physically distant from one another (at least six feet). In phase 5, for grades 6-12, masks can be removed while in the classrooms, as long as students are six feet apart.
*5th grade is considered Middle School at FMCA.
All students in grades kindergarten through 4 will not be required to wear facial coverings in their classrooms, unless (1) students do not remain with their cohort class throughout the school day and (2) come into close contact with students in another class.
In phase 4, all staff will wear facial coverings when in classrooms, except (1) during meals and (2) unless face coverings cannot be medically tolerated as documented through written and signed verification by a physician. In phase 5, staff can remove masks in the classroom setting as long as the six-foot social distancing measure is practiced.
Do I need to purchase masks for my child?
Yes. We are asking all parents to purchase masks for their child. Parents may opt to buy disposable or reusable masks. For disposable masks, each mask must be thrown away at the end of every school day and parents should send plenty of extra masks to school with their child. For reusable masks, masks should be cleaned after every use and students should send at least one extra reusable mask to school.
Can face shields be used instead of masks?
No. A face shield can be used in addition to a mask but does not replace a mask.
Will teachers teach children how to use masks?
Yes. We know that students will need training to learn how to properly wear masks. We will spend time at the beginning of the year helping children learn how to safely keep masks in place.
Will students be required to physically distance at school?
When students are with their class or cohort, they should remain as far apart as possible, but do not need to keep at least six feet apart.
Should I take my child’s temperature every day before school?
Yes. A high fever is a key symptom of COVID-19. Parents should take their child’s temperature every day before their child is taken to school. If your child has a fever of over 100.4°F, your child should be kept home from school. You should contact your child’s doctor and the school’s main office. Similarly, you should ask your child if he/she has any of the other symptoms of COVID-19, such as a sore throat, coughing, or nausea. If your child complains of these symptoms, you should keep him/her home and contact your doctor and the school office.
How will drop off and pick-up be handled?
We are asking each school to carefully evaluate drop off and pick up procedures. Schools will use various entrances and exits to minimize contact between student cohorts. Parents will be asked not to congregate near school doors. Your principal will communicate specific drop off and pick up procedures to you ahead of the start of school.
In addition, when students enter school every day, they will be asked to participate in two tasks. These are:
If a student has a temperature above 100.4°F or complains of other COVID-19 symptoms, he/she will be immediately sent to a quarantine room.
Students should wash their hands with soap or use hand sanitizer.
Students will be asked if they are feeling well.
What does the plan say about safety and cleanliness requirements for school buildings?
Our plan includes very specific requirements for the ongoing cleaning and sanitizing of our school buildings. Generally speaking, buildings will be cleaned very frequently, with a particular focus on high-traffic areas and common surfaces. Windows and/or vents should be opened to maximize air flow. Barriers will be installed in main office areas.
How will lunch take place when school reopens?
If cafeterias are used and six feet of distance between students is not possible, mealtimes will be staggered, and physical barriers will be used. Serving and cafeteria staff will use barrier protection including gloves, face shields, and surgical masks. Classrooms or outdoor areas can be used for students to eat meals at school.
What about recess?
Schools may still conduct recess, but schools must fulfill defined safety requirements. For example, cohorts must be spread out from one another. If recess is outdoors, masks may be removed, but students will stay at least six feet apart.
Can I still volunteer at school?
We have asked schools to minimize the number of volunteers this year in an effort to mitigate risk.
Will extended care (before and after care) be available this year?
Yes. Schools may continue to offer extended care. Our schools will follow LARA Regulations for extended care.
My child and/or another member of my household is in an at-risk group for COVID-19. Should I send my child to school?
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has defined conditions in which certain people may be more at risk for severe illness through COVID-19. If your child or another member of your household is in an at-risk group, we encourage you to speak to your doctor. Ultimately you should decide whether it is safe for your child to attend school.
Is it okay for my family to travel out of town during the COVID-19 pandemic?
We recommend that you not travel out of town during the current pandemic. However, if travel is necessary, we encourage you to become familiar with the CDC’s Travel Guidelines. If you or a member of your household travels to another country or to a state identified by the CDC as having a surge in COVID-19 cases, your school may ask you to wait for 14 days until returning your child to school.
What happens if there is a COVID-19 surge in Upper Michigan and the state imposes more restrictions on schools?
If a COVID-19 surge occurs, we will work closely with state officials to determine whether we can continue face-to-face instruction (even on an alternate schedule). If necessary, we will return to at-home virtual instruction.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified several symptoms of COVID-19, including high fever (above 100.4°F), sore throat, coughing, nausea, headache, muscle aches, loss of taste or smell, runny nose, fatigue, diarrhea and difficulty breathing.
What should I do if my child has symptoms of COVID-19?
If your child shows symptoms of COVID-19, you should contact your doctor. Your doctor may ask that your child participate in a COVID-19 test. You should alert your school’s main office and not send your child to school.
If the symptoms occur during the school day, your child will be immediately sent to the office and you will be contacted to pick your child up from school.
My child had COVID-19-like symptoms but tested negative for COVID-19. When can he/she return to school?
If your child does not have COVID-19, but has another illness, you should keep your child home until the illness’ symptoms disappear.
What should I do if my child tests positive for COVID-19?
You should immediately contact your doctor for additional instructions. You should also contact your school’s main office. You should not send your child to school.
When can a student return to school after receiving a positive COVID-19 test?
If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the student must isolate and not return to school until they have met CDC’s criteria to discontinue home isolation. This includes:
Three or more days without a high fever;
A reduction of other COVID symptoms by at least 75 percent; and
At least 14 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
What should I do if a member of my household (who is not my child) tests positive for COVID- 19?
You should immediately contact your school’s main office. Your school will ask that you keep your child home for at least 14 days. If your family member recovers from COVID-19 (through meeting the criteria in the previous question) AND your child shows no COVID-19 symptoms for the 14-day period, your school may allow your child to return.
What happens if my child’s teacher tests positive for COVID-19?
Should any employee have COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, we will follow the same protocols used for students (see above). If your child’s teacher becomes sick and is unable to work, your school will provide a substitute teacher.
What happens if another student in my child’s class tests positive for COVID-19?
Your school will make all parents aware that a student has tested positive for COVID-19. All students in the cohort will be monitored closely for COVID-19 symptoms. If more than one student tests positive for COVID-19, it is likely that the entire cohort will be isolated (sent home) for at least 14 days. Students will be allowed to complete work virtually while the cohort is away from school.
Could my child’s school building be closed down due to COVID-19 this year?
We will do our best to ensure a safe and healthy environment in the coming year. However, if numerous cases appear in a single school, resulting in the isolation of multiple classes/cohorts, we may need to close the school building and transition all students to virtual learning for a time. Parents will be updated regularly should that need arise.
Academics and Programming
Will my child’s curriculum be changed this year?
Schools will still deliver high-quality instruction in core subjects (religion, language arts, math, science and social studies). Special requirements will be in place for departmentalized classes and special area subjects (see sections below). The implementation of safety and health requirements (outlined earlier in this FAQ) will create new complexities in instruction, but our commitment remains to provide your child the best possible faith-based education.
Will my child’s classroom look different?
We have instructed schools to spread out desks and tables in classrooms as much as possible. In order to maximize floorspace, we’ve asked teachers to remove non-essential furniture and other items. We have also asked that desks and tables be arranged so that they face the front of the room. These steps were taken to minimize risk of any infection in the classroom.
Will students share school supplies?
No. We are asking schools to ensure that students not share school supplies (e.g., books, crayons, technology, etc.), including for such subjects as art and music. Exceptions may be made for activities outdoors (such as outdoor physical education classes). If it is impossible to avoid sharing supplies, such as computers in a computer lab, such supplies must be cleaned after every use.
Will students still change classes?
Many schools offer departmentalization, in which students change classes for core subjects (religion, language arts, math, science and social studies).
Will schools still offer classes in special subject areas (e.g., art, music, PE, etc.)?
Yes. As with departmentalization (see last question), we will ask special subject area teachers to travel to each class’ homeroom for instruction whenever possible. This will be particularly likely for such subjects as art, music, health and foreign language. If students visit spaces such as the gymnasium, computer/STEM lab or library, the room must be cleaned after every cohort.
Will students participate in field trips?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools will not participate in in-person field trips while the District is in Phase 4.
I need to meet with a teacher or my school principal. Can these meetings occur?
Yes. These meeting can take place virtually via phone or video chat.
Will school masses still take place?
The archdiocese has defined a specific plan for parishes that allows for the celebration of mass under very specific conditions. Schools will be asked to follow this plan, in close coordination with the local pastor and parish, in determining how/whether masses may be celebrated.
How will extracurricular activities be impacted this year?
Our plan provides guidance on specific extracurricular activities. Highlights of this guidance include (by activity):
Athletics: We are awaiting further information from the state regarding athletics. More information will be provided to parents as it is known.
Band: Rehearsals for small groups may take place for non-wind instruments (e.g., percussion, strings, etc.). Students must be physically distant. Rehearsals must occur virtually or outdoors for wind instruments (woodwinds and brass).
Choir, Drama/School Play, Christmas Program: Due to ongoing health concerns, we are asking schools to conduct such programs virtually or cancel them for the coming school year.
Other Activities: For other activities (e.g., robotics, debate, etc.), schools must meet specific health and safety requirements. If such requirements cannot be met, these activities should be conducted virtually or canceled.
Tuition and Fees
Will schools still collect tuition this year?
Yes. While this school year may look different, our schools will continue to provide a rigorous academic experience while supporting the moral and spiritual development of each student. Our Catholic schools depend upon tuition revenue to pay our employees who do this work and support other school-related expenses.
I am having difficulty paying tuition, as my own workplace has been impacted by COVID-19. What do I do?
We know that some families may have difficulties paying tuition due to the loss of pay during workplace closures and are ready to support those in need of assistance. If this is happening to you, please contact your school’s principal. We understand your situation and will do our very best to work with you.
Will fees be changed this year?
Each school develops their own fees based upon their own local needs. Fees may be adjusted if a program or activity has been directly impacted by COVID-19. For example, if a fee is collected for a particular field trip, it is likely that the fee will not be collected this year (as field trips will not occur).