Starts with precautions: St. Mary’s begins academic year amid pandemic

Lilly Wolf checks out her new workspace Thursday, Aug. 6, inside pre-kindergarten teacher Stacie Polk’s classroom during meet the teacher night at St. Mary’s Catholic School. Saint Mary’s students return to school today, Tuesday, Aug. 11.

More than 130 students are expected to return to St. Mary’s Catholic School Tuesday, Aug. 11. However, things will be a bit different than previous school years.

Fourth through eighth graders will be required to wear face masks all day and students in pre-kindergarten through third grades will have to wear masks during “transitions” such as leaving the classroom to go to the restroom or another activity, according to Diana Schumacher, administrative assistant with St. Mary’s.

“This policy will remain in effect until the governor lifts the restrictions,” Schumacher said.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order mandating masks in most public spaces before the Fourth of July weekend to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. He has not said when the order will end.

As of Monday, Aug. 10, the private school had 133 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade to kick off the 2020-2021 school year, according to Schumacher. The number of students enrolled this year is only slightly less than last. There were 141 students enrolled during the 2019-2020 school year. However, five of those students graduated. Only three, she said, chose to go to another school this year and the school doesn’t know the reasoning behind those students’ decisions.

All students, Schumacher said, will be returning for face-to-face instruction on campus.

In addition to wearing masks, students and staff are encouraged to wash or sanitize their hands often. According to St. Mary’s Return to School Plan, hand sanitizer or hand washing stations with soap and water will be available at each entrance and in every classroom.

“It is highly encouraged to have students engage in hand washing for at least 20 seconds at least two times each day, in addition to being encouraged to wash hands after using the restroom and before eating,” the plan posted to the private school’s website states.

Social distancing is encouraged and a sign asking to do so was seen posted throughout the hallways during meet the teacher night Thursday, Aug. 6.

Social distancing is keeping at least six feet away from someone not in your immediate household.

Water fountains are closed.

The school also said there will be additional cleaning throughout the day. That includes commonly touched surfaces such as door handles, desks and shared computers or tablets.

St. Mary’s was to pre-screen all students for COVID-19 symptoms, the disease caused by the pandemic coronavirus, prior to the start of school, the school’s return plan states. There will also be weekly screenings to check to see if students have symptoms or if they have had close contact with anyone who has tested positive for the virus.

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