A message from OCS President Tom Lilly –
It is very possible that we will all enjoy a return to some normalcy this summer. But despite changes taking place in other states and with the CDC, local health officials are still asking Owensboro Catholic Schools to continue complying with mandated restrictions. That means that all school sponsored events must follow the established protocols.
For the first two months of this calendar year, managing the quarantines and active cases nearly closed our system. It was becoming too difficult to manage. But our own school health officials, teachers and staff managed to keep the doors open, even when quarantines neared 200 students. Kudos to our organization!
For the last two weeks, the COVID front has been eerily quiet. It happened almost overnight. There were no active cases and only a handful of quarantines. At the very same time OCS was experiencing a reprieve, a local educational institution was shut down. There continues to be large number of quarantines in other organizations. When we review this school year, we have a lot to celebrate as a community. Most of our athletic teams had full seasons. We did the best we could to provide as many extracurricular activities as possible, while complying with state mandates. And considering all the obstacles, we should feel extremely blessed.
Some parents are pushing for more social and extracurricular activities. We understand you want the full experience of these important years for your children. We also have teachers and staff who want to provide more opportunities for our students. All of that is understandable. But we continue to work with local health department officials DAILY and we are going to follow the mandates established by the state. We are fully aware that not everyone is on the same page, but we will continue to be on the same page with the health care officials in charge of interpreting and enforcing the rules of compliance. That strategy kept our schools open when others were closed. That strategy gave our athletics and extracurricular activities more freedoms and fewer quarantines than other organizations.
The one freedom we have not exercised is the removal of the desk separators. But logistically, our maintenance crew will not have an opportunity to address this issue until the summer. Remember that this year has taxed EVERYBODY in the system. The maintenance staff has had an incredible burden placed on them which started this summer and carried on throughout the school year. They responded as well as the rest of the Catholic Community to this crisis. Food Services also had to make significant changes and adapt every day to a changing environment of rules and regulations. School health personnel worked seven days a week acting as tracers. Parents have also made tremendous sacrifices as well. But until we are given clearance to change our protocols, we will continue to follow the directives of those entrusted with the responsibility of making decisions. We will do everything we can to push the envelope, because this year we contributed to science (based on the data we collected over the summer about schools that were in session)! We KNOW that masks are the key to preventing transmissions. We KNOW that we could provide many more freedoms under a strict masking policy without impacting transmissions. But quarantines are based on adherence to all the protocols. While some will continue to pressure for more freedoms, we will not sponsor as an organization, anything that circumvents the state mandates, which were issued under a state of emergency. We have watched things change dramatically for the good AND bad within a week or two in this school year. We do not know what the impact of variants or spring break will be. At the first sign of hope, it would be imprudent to start making decisions that contradicted the strategy which has granted us with so many freedoms under these difficult times.
We are aware of what students have sacrificed and it is the last thing any of us in the community want. But it has been a year of sacrifice for the entire world. Our students have NOT enjoyed the full experience of a Catholic Education. But businesses have closed. People have lost jobs. Many students lost a year of academics. Families are worrying about their future and their health. We are ALL sacrificing. So please continue to support strategies that keep students in the classroom.