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OCS Students Will Attend 5-Day, In-Person Classes

The article below ran in the Messenger-Inquirer this morning. We have provided it below in case you missed it!

For the start of the 2020-21 school year, Owensboro Catholic Schools has opted for five-day, in-person classroom instruction that will begin on Aug. 26.

That’s in contrast to Owensboro and Daviess County public schools that have decided to offer three days of virtual learning from home and two days of in-person learning as part of the COVID-19 era educational experience.

Keith Osborne, chief administrative officer for OCS, said the goal during this summer was to create a plan that would allow full-time, in-person teaching as long as there were no state or federal mandates against it.

“We strongly believe in the benefit of socialization, interaction with one another and being in our classrooms to share our faith with one another,” he said.

Osborne added that OCS consulted with local and state health experts to devise a plan that implements best practices to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We’ve decided that we can accomplish this task five days a week, in-person (teaching), following all CDC and local health department guidelines,” Osborne said. “We’ve run our plan past the local health department.”

Among the plan’s safety protocols will be daily temperature checks for students and teachers upon arrival. Anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees will be sent home. Random temperature checks will also be done throughout the day.

Other safety measures will include adding desk shields, removing water fountains in favor of water bottle refilling stations and utilizing both classroom, outdoor and cafeteria spaces for eating lunch.

Another safety measure will be requiring students and teachers to wear face masks when they’re walking around or can’t be seated 6 feet apart to meet the physical distancing standards.

Osborne said teachers and OCS school administrators will be stressing what’s being called a “masks in motion“ policy.

“It’s up to us to be creative in ways to give them breaks from (wearing masks),” Osborne said. “Where they can be 6 feet apart and with the desk shields that are going to be installed, they’ll be able to remove their masks.”

When weather permits, teachers will have the option to take their classes outdoors.

Osborne said teachers are being encouraged to use their entire campuses.

“We have talked to our faculty and staff repeatedly about this return to school being a joyful experience,” Osborne said. “It does not need to be prison-like. … So take them in the gymnasium; have class outside. Most of our campuses have a fair to ample amount of green space. So let’s utilize that.”

For OCS students who can’t attend in-person classes, schools will work with families on an education plan.

Osborne said the choice not to offer any virtual learning wasn’t because it was cost-prohibitive to provide laptops and the IT support that goes with it.

“In March when we all had to stop what we were doing, and change completely what we were doing, we provided Chromebooks for any student or family,” Osborne said. “…And one of the reasons we can do this is because our student population is not near what Owensboro and Daviess County are dealing with. They have a whole different set of challenges because of their student population. So it’s easy to understand why they’ve chosen the path they’ve chosen.”

As in previous school years, OCS will operate on the same calendar as DCPS and use DCPS buses to transport Catholic students to school and back home.

But with DCPS only offering virtual learning on Wednesdays, Osborne said transportation could be a hurdle for that one day.

“Obviously, our students will ride (buses) on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday,” Osborne said. “There’s still some discussion about Wednesday (with DCPS). But Wednesday may be a day that parents have to do the best they can to get their children to school. That may be part of what we have to deal with this year.”

By Don Wilkins, Messenger-Inquirer