A Message from OCHS Principal Gates Settle

My Family Takes It Personal!

By Gates Settle
OCHS Principal

In my 26 years as a school administrator, 21 of them as a principal, I have penned quite a few columns covering quite a few topics, mostly related to the time of the school year or what may have been relevant to a school situation.  I have avoided personal stories with just a couple of exceptions.

As we all know, we are in extremely unusual, difficult and trying times and maybe none more challenging than what we are facing as a school system. As the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures, and while I won’t call this desperation, I will say that it is a personal plea for common sense to help our system through these trying times because I am such a believer in our school system.

I am probably like the majority of people since I don’t always know who or what to believe when it comes to this historic pandemic. I do my best to be open minded and try to keep the politics out of what influences my beliefs. In some cases, my beliefs are anecdotal, based on experiences with no data to back up my  opinions which in some cases may be right, but can also be proven wrong. But, I do feel strongly in what the science and the medical profession tells us so my behavior and beliefs are influenced mostly by the doctors and scientists regarding the health risks, precautions and guidelines we should go by to be safe. As everyone now knows, the decision has been made to start back to school, in person five days a week.  Whether one agrees or disagrees with the decision, I think we could all agree that everyone wants kids to be in school and to be safe.

The data backs up that we CAN go to school in person safely IF we follow the guidelines and the recommendations to the best of our ability. But this is where it becomes challenging  for all of us, but for me,  this is very personal.

My family has been extremely cautious during this health crisis. Let me be clear that I DO support the decision to go in person, but I will have to say that I have had some mixed feelings due to my personal situation. Since I have been at OCHS, I have shared the story of my special needs son Ethan, 45 times on senior retreats.  I won’t go into detail about him, but I will say that my family’s cautiousness revolves around keeping him from being exposed to COVID. Just like most parents, I would do anything to keep him safe and we are doing everything we can to protect him.  So when I hear people saying that “masks are stupid,” or  “it’s my right not to wear one,” or “it’s uncomfortable,” or I see people without a mask when they should, it’s very painful. We need to care more than that about others.

There is one place where science and most politicians agree. Masks are one of the best deterrents to stopping the spread of the virus. So as we get ready to embark on what is starting out as a very different type of beginning at Catholic High, it is imperative for everyone to put politics aside, follow what science and medicine recommend and practice what our faith teaches;  to serve, help and protect others, especially the most vulnerable.

Our mask rules will be strict.  Masks will be worn correctly covering the nose and mouth.  Masks will be worn from the time students exit vehicles in the morning, until  the time  they enter vehicles to leave  in the afternoon. There will be some opportunities during the day to temporarily remove masks when eating (must be seated) or during specified mask breaks (when distance or shielded). Other than those designated times,  there are no excuses for not being masked. For Catholic High to stay open for in person classes and for students, staff and their families to stay safe, the cooperation of the students, staff and the support of parents  to encourage adherence to the guidelines is vital. We will be direct and swift with correction and there will be no  tolerance for insubordination because this is a very serious situation on multiple levels.

When we are tired, annoyed and tempted to not follow the guidelines,  we all need to remember:  it is not about politics, freedom or individual rights. It is about decisions that affect  public health,  that could impact others and my family. So from day one, I will be doing everything possible to make sure our guidelines are followed because for me, it is extremely personal!

Blessings to all,

Gates Settle