As we shared on July 6th, we have been working hard since this past spring to prepare for a successful and safe reopening of St. James, guided by four priorities: The mission of St. James Academy; the health and safety of our students, staff, and families; supporting our parents as the first educators of their children and partners in the education of each of our SJA students; and supporting and developing the whole student.
Now that the state and county guidance for schools has been published, we have been able to review our health and safety plans and ensure that they are aligned to the expert recommendations as they exist today. Obviously, what we know about this virus and best practices related to it evolves over time, and we will continue to work with JCDHE and the Archdiocesan School Office to evaluate new information as it arises. Our plan outlines the processes and protocols put in place to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 at SJA while ensuring the highest quality education for your students that we can offer.
Before we get into details, there are a few important points to consider:
- The plan we have in place will allow each of our students (with a few exceptions) to attend school without encountering a single “close contact” as defined by the KSDE and JCDHE guidelines. A “close contact” is someone who has been within 6-feet of another person for more than ten minutes. We have worked hard to ensure that if a student cooperates with the plan, a close contact will not occur at any point during the school day. This should give us confidence that students are as safe as possible while at school and minimize the number of disruptions to learning during the year.
- We have had classes taught in the building this summer following many of these protocols, and it looks and feels more like “real school” than you might think! Looking at the plan on paper, it can feel overwhelming, but seeing many of these procedures already put into practice gives us great peace knowing that when it’s all said and done, kids are still in a classroom with our amazing teachers and each other, building relationships and learning at a high level. Things might look and feel a little different, because they will be, but it is more like “school” than not.
- Evidence continues to roll in that our education last spring, while not ideal, was more than adequate; it was excellent. No one will deny that learning on Zoom is not the same as being in person, but we believe that what our teachers were able to do last spring is an indication of how successful we can be this year with online instruction. Here are a few data points to consider:
- Of the 130 responses on our parent survey last spring, 97% rated their satisfaction with SJA’s approach to distance learning a 3 out of 5 or higher, and 55% rated it a 5 out of 5!
- This spring, we administered 529 Advanced Placement (AP) exams with a 74% pass rate, the highest in school history!
We are not saying there will not be difficulties in reopening school. Of course there will be. But we believe in the God that has promised to walk with us through each of those challenges, we believe in the people He has brought together to work here with your students, and we believe in the strength of our community to meet adversity with grace and courage. We have risen to the challenge in an extraordinary way already, and we will again this year. Remember: “He holds tomorrow!”, and we are ready to do His work today.
Andy Tylicki, President | Shane Rapp, Ed.D., Principal
School Safety Operations
St. James Academy has been working with a task force to create safety and cleaning protocols for reopening school. The task force consisted of the following individuals.
- Andy Tylicki – President – St. James Academy
- Shane Rapp – Principal – St. James Academy
- Julie Mayfield – Nurse – St. James Academy
- John Muehlberger – Dean of Students – St. James Academy
- Rick Steagall – Facilities – St. James Academy
- Mike Medina – Facilities – St. James Academy
- Mike Mahoney – Board Member – St. James Academy
- Ernie Straub – Board Member – St. James Academy
- Chris Albright – Vice President – Smith and Boucher
- Dan Carney – Director of Safety and Security – Blue Valley School District
- Tom Feiden – President – Heartland Pathogens
The task force was created to evaluate and assess recommendations given to schools by the CDC, Kansas State Department of Education, Johnson County Department of Health and Environment, and the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas. Our goal since our first meeting in April was to create the safest environment for students, faculty and staff as we re-opened school. As you all know, COVID has created a great deal of unknown over the past few months. This will be a fluid document that we will continue to work on as the environment changes. We will keep updating as needed and it will remain on our website at www.sjakeepingfaith.org.
Summer Work to Prepare for Opening
Our facilities team has purchased 5 other fogging machines that will be used throughout the school. They have created cleaning protocols for classrooms daily. We were able to secure two spraying machines that will be used after school to thoroughly clean classrooms. Each classroom will have disinfectant spray, a paper towel dispenser and hand sanitizer. There are numerous hand sanitizer stations throughout the hallways and entry points of our school. The facilities team has done an excellent job of maintaining the sanitation of our school after we opened the doors July 6th.
In evaluating all options for beginning school this year, we have collaborated with other schools within the Archdiocese, the Archdiocesan School Office, and our Reopening School Task Force to determine what is in the best interest of our students and staff as well as our wider community.
The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment officially published their guidance for schools on Tuesday, July 28th, regarding the criteria for reopening schools safely.
In considering this information from JCDHE in addition to the guidance received from the Kansas State Department of Education and the Archdiocesan Reopening Schools Committee, we have decided to begin school with an extended High School 101 starting on August 31st followed by the first day of class on September 8th.
See an updated list of important dates below.
*It is recommended to use a laptop or desktop to view the table below.
|Event||Who is on campus?||What times?||Notes|
|August 5th and 6th
Senior Leadership Summit
|All elected senior leaders and any other seniors who want to attend.||9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. both days||Seniors should look for communication from Mrs. Walters regarding this.|
Teacher Work Days
|Teachers will begin working both from home and on campus at different times during this week.||Starting this week, some AP and College-Now classes may receive pre-work via Google Classroom or email to be completed prior to class beginning.|
|All SJA staff on campus for full days.|
|All Freshmen and elected senior leaders (as well as any other senior who wants to attend).||8:35-12:00||Students should be in uniform. They will not need their computer or any school supplies, and they will NOT eat lunch as part of their day.|
High School 101
|All students from the Communities of St. Benedict, St. Catherine, St. Gianna Molla, and St. Gregory.||8:35-12:00||Freshmen will find out a week prior whether they are attending on September 1st or 2nd.|
High School 101
|All students from the Communities of St. John Paul II, St. Padre Pio, St. Peter, and St. Teresa of Calcutta.||8:35-12:00||For September 1st and 2nd, students should be in uniform. They will not need their computer or any school supplies, and they will NOT eat lunch as part of their day.|
|All Freshmen and Sophomores||8:35-3:20||All students should be in uniform. They WILL need their computers and a lunch; American Dining will have a grab-and-go lunch option for purchase.|
|All Juniors and Seniors||8:40-3:25||All students should be in uniform. They WILL need their computers and a lunch; American Dining will have a grab-and-go lunch option for purchase.|
|All students!||8:35-3:20 Fr/So
|Whether this occurs in person, in the hybrid model, or online depends on the 14-day rolling average of positive COVID tests in Johnson County. Please see the section on “Models of Instruction” for more information.|
Models of Instruction and Criteria for Changing Models
Johnson County Department of Health and Environment has established “gateway criteria” for schools regarding whether it is safe to be fully open or not. That gateway criteria was officially published on Tuesday, July 28th. To see updates from JCDHE, click here. To see the JCDHE guidance for schools, click here.
Essentially, there are three possibilities for learning throughout this school year:
- This model allows for all students on campus for full days.
- JCDHE recommends this option if the positive COVID-19 testing rates in Johnson County are steady or decreasing and equal to or below 5%.
- Please note: all rates reference a 14-day rolling average of positive tests within Johnson County.
- This model requires us to operate at 50% capacity or less on campus.
- Following JCDHE’s gateways, we will move to this model if the positive COVID-19 testing rates in Johnson County are steady or decreasing and above 5% and below 10%.
- In this model, the first A-Day of each week would have Freshmen and Sophomores on campus; the second A-Day would have Juniors and Seniors on campus. The same would be true of the first and second B-Days of each week. See a sample weekly schedule in the “Calendar Considerations” section.
- When not on campus, class will still be taking place for students on the normal in-person A- and B-Day schedules; they will simply be on Zoom rather than on campus. Teachers will limit required Zoom time each class period to 50 minutes or less of the 70-minute block to help manage screen time.
- This model requires all students and staff to be home.
- Based on the JCDHE guidance, this model will be required whenever positive COVID-19 testing rates in Johnson County are above 10%.
- This model will be very similar to what we implemented last spring.
Obviously, we hope to be implementing Option One for most or all of this school year. However, we are fully prepared to effectively move between each of the models in a manner that keeps students learning and connected to their teachers, peers, and God. We have intentionally structured our school calendar this year to not only minimize interruptions to learning due to positive COVID cases in the building, but also to allow us to move efficiently and effectively between the three models of instruction.
Our goal in creating the calendar is to maximize the amount of time students are on campus safely and to minimize disruptions to the schedule and learning environment as much as possible. We are also striving to create transitions that are as seamless as possible for moving from the in-person model to a hybrid model to online learning and back again.
In their “Navigating Change” document, KSDE has stated that if a positive COVID-19 enters the building, schools have two options. The first is closing school for 2-5 days until the entire building is disinfected. The other option is to close off any areas the person who tested positive was in until those areas are properly disinfected.
Areas to be closed include all spaces the person was in 48-hours prior to the onset of symptoms, or, for an asymptomatic case, prior to the positive test result.
Therefore, instead of alternating “A-Day then B-Day” like we normally would, we are adjusting the schedule to ensure that within any 48-hour period, no student is in all 9 of their classroom spaces. If we followed a traditional A/B schedule, it is likely that even one or two students coming to school with COVID-19 would effectively make it necessary to close school. This model gives far greater control over contact tracing and sanitation of infected areas and should limit the number of times in-person instruction is interrupted.
Assuming it is likely that there will be positive cases on a regular basis, we want to ensure that one or two positive cases will not force us to close school. By setting up our schedule this way, we will be able to close off some classrooms while still operating a regular school day.
Below is a sample of what a typical week’s calendar would look like.
|<5% – All On Campus||5%-10% – Hybrid||>10% – Distance|
Everyone on campus.
Fr/So on campus.
Jr/Sr on Zoom at home.
Everyone on Zoom at home.
Everyone on campus.
Jr/Sr on campus.
Fr/So on Zoom at home.
Everyone on Zoom at home.
Everyone on Zoom at home*
Everyone on Zoom at home.*
Everyone on campus.
Fr/So on campus.
Jr/Sr on Zoom at home.
Everyone on Zoom at home.
Everyone on campus.
Jr/Sr on campus.
Fr/So on Zoom at home.
Everyone on Zoom at home.
*In all three models, there may be some students who will be offered and/or required additional supports on campus on Wednesdays.
**The Digital Day schedule on Wednesdays will alternate between an A-Day and B-Day Online/Distance Learning schedule (four 50 minute classes in the morning and Thunder Block in the afternoon).
Please note: There are only ten Digital Days first semester. We have shifted as many of our alternately scheduled days (i.e. Parent/Teacher Conferences, Homecoming ½ Day, etc.) onto Wednesdays to maintain the split schedule we desire while maximizing in-person instruction.
Safety Protocols for Entry to the Building
- Students and employees exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 without other obvious explanations are prohibited from coming to school, and if they do come to school, they will be sent home immediately. Current known symptoms are:
- Fever (100.4 or higher).
- Muscle or body aches
- Sore throat
- Lower respiratory illness (cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing)
- New loss of taste or smell
- Please screen your children at home for any of these symptoms, and if they exhibit them, keep them home for the day.
- All staff and students will have their temperature checked before entering the building.
- There will be two staff members at each of three entrances with no-touch thermometers: the gym entrance, the main school entrance, and the glass door outside the Academic Wing to help prevent groups from congregating.
- Any individual with a fever of 100.4 or higher will be sent home.
- All students and staff must have masks on before entering the building.
- No lockers will be used. Students will carry their backpacks to each class. It is recommended that all students sanitize their backpacks at the beginning and end of each school day.
- Students will not be allowed to gather in the hallways before or after school as in the past. Students arriving between 7:50 and 8:25 who do not attend Mass will be in marked spots in the gym 6 feet apart.
- Morning Mass will use 6-foot spacing and other health recommendations from the Archdiocese regarding the celebration of the sacraments.
Safety Protocols During the School Day
- All classroom desks, with a few rare exceptions, have been set 6 feet apart. Classroom activities that may require movement within the 6-foot area will be limited to 7 minutes or less at a time.
- Students will wear masks during the length of the school day. Exceptions for this requirement include:
- All exceptions listed in Executive Order 20-59, linked here.
- If a teacher takes their class outside to utilize one of the outdoor classroom areas. These areas will be marked for seating 7 feet apart to allow for proper social distancing.
- Students will wash or sanitize their hands at the beginning of each class period.
- Passing periods are staggered to limit crowding in the halls.
- Teachers will maintain seating charts on PowerSchool for each class to help with contact tracing should that become necessary.
- Doors will be kept open while teaching to help circulation in classrooms.
- Stairwells will be “one-way” and hallways will have suggested traffic flows to minimize student interactions.
- Teachers will allow two students at a time to use the restroom during instructional time to minimize bathroom traffic during passing periods.
Safety Protocols After the School Day
- At the end of the school day, students are asked to leave campus immediately unless they have a school-sponsored activity on campus.
- The School Resource Officer and an administrator will be in parking lots helping monitor departure after school.
- Students who remain at school after 3:30 in the afternoon will remain in assigned seats in the Dining Hall.
- Decisions regarding activities and athletics will be forthcoming once we get final guidance from KSHSAA, the EKL, and JCDHE.
Community, House, and Faith Formation Considerations
- Daily 8:00 Mass will continue. To begin the school year, it will be for students and staff only; no outside guests or parents please.
- All Masses will follow the guidelines from the Archdiocese regarding safe liturgy.
- All-School Masses will take place by live streaming to multiple spaces in the building.
- Class retreats will still take place. We will evaluate what is possible considering everyone’s safety and will communicate the week prior to retreat whether it will take place at Prairie Star Ranch or on campus.
- House will continue on a daily basis. While some of the games and activities that normally take place during House won’t be possible, others will be.
- More importantly, however, we see this year as an opportunity for us to dive deeper into the most important aspects of our system: the adult mentorship of each student and the interpersonal connections between kids in Houses.
- Community prayer in alcoves will not take place before House times.
- Houses will still be able to have some activities within their Communities by utilizing the field, gym, and Chapel.
- School-wide competitions will still take place, but will be done in stages and/or will switch to activities that can be done while socially distanced.
Activities and Athletics
- Final decisions regarding Fall activities and athletics are yet to be made.
- The KSHSAA Executive Board voted on Tuesday, July 28th, to continue fall activities as originally planned.
- The JCDHE has provided gateway criteria for athletics and activities similar to what we have described for school.
- More conversations will need to take place amongst the Archdiocesan high schools and within our league, the EKL, before any determinations can be made. More information will be sent to families as it is available.
We have worked hard within the Archdiocesan and national guidelines available to us to make it possible for all students to be on campus for full school days. This is a critical element to be able to meet all four of our aforementioned priorities, especially that of educating the whole person. To achieve this, we are moving to an 8-Hour block rotation rather than a 7-Hour block rotation. This will allow us to get class sizes small enough to accommodate 6-foot distancing in classrooms while maintaining a relatively normal school experience for all.
Important features to note:
- Last spring, each student enrolled in seven classes for the fall; their eighth class will be a study hall hosted in the Dining Hall. This will offset lost Thunder Block time and lower numbers in classrooms.
- Length of classes will be 75 minutes (as opposed to last year’s 85 minute blocks).
- Passing periods will be staggered by Freshmen/Sophomore and Junior/Senior classes to limit numbers in the halls; otherwise, there are no differences between the Fr/Soph and Jr/Sr schedules.
- The study halls 1st, 4th, 5th, and 8th hours (the first and last periods of each day) will be Junior/Senior study halls. We will ask the upperclassmen in those study halls to either arrive at 9:00 (for 1st and 5th Hours) or leave at 3:00 (for 4th and 8th Hours) to stagger arrivals and departures more than the different start and end times already will. On Late Start days, arrival time will be 10:00 for those Study Halls, and for Early Release days, dismissal will be 2:00.
- To begin the year, access to the school building will be closed until 7:50 each morning except for student-athletes with morning practices, who will be allowed in the gym entrance by their coaches. Students who arrive at school after 7:50 and do not attend Mass will be seated in assigned spots in the gym until 8:25. Students who remain at school after 3:30 in the afternoon will remain in assigned seats in the Dining Hall.
- Lunches will take place in the 3rd and 7th-hour classrooms. The kitchen will be open for grab-and-go lunch options to be taken back to classrooms.
- Thunder Block has been reduced in length and scope. That means not all teachers will be available to meet during each Thunder Block as in past years and student options during that time will be limited to working in one of their current teacher’s classrooms, working on school work in the gym, or spending time in prayer in the chapel.
- Given the tight parameters for class sizes, we will not allow schedule changes this fall, and fewer students than normal will be able to get their first-choice electives. We appreciate your understanding on this matter; the plans for student schedules will take a significant amount of work throughout the rest of the summer to ensure each classroom does not exceed its maximum number, and schedule changes in August simply will not be feasible (unless a required class is for some reason not on the student’s original schedule). The counseling department will let students know when schedules are available to view on PowerSchool some time in early August.
|Fr/Soph A-Day||Fr/Soph B-Day||Jr/Sr A-Day||Jr/Sr B-Day|
|1st: 8:35-9:50||5th: 8:35-9:50||1st: 8:40-9:55||5th: 8:40-9:55|
|2nd: 9:55-11:10||House: 9:55-10:25||2nd: 10:00-11:15||House: 10:00-10:30|
|3rd: 11:15-1:45||6th: 10:30-11:45||3rd: 11:20-1:50||6th: 10:35-11:50|
|Class – 11:15-12:30
Fr Lunch/So TB 12:35-1:05
So Lunch/Fr TB 1:10-1:45
|7th: 11:50-2:05||Jr Lunch/Sr TB 11:20-11:50
Sr Lunch/Jr TB – 11:55-12:30
Class – 12:35-1:50
|House: 1:50-2:05||Fr Lunch/So TB 11:50-12:15
So Lunch/Fr TB 12:20-12:45
Class – 12:50-2:00
|House: 1:55-2:05||Class – 11:55-1:05
Sr Lunch/Jr TB 1:10-1:35
Jr Lunch/Sr TB 1:40-2:05
|4th: 2:10-3:20||8th: 2:05-3:20||4th: 2:10-3:25||8th: 2:10-3:25|
Alternate Learning Options
We understand that for some students and families, it will not be prudent or possible for their student to attend in-person instruction. We are providing two options for students to continue accessing their St. James education without being in the classroom.
- Zoom access from home.
- Zoom access from a dedicated space at SJA.
In these scenarios, students would observe and participate in their normally scheduled in-person instruction via Zoom to the best of their ability. They will be expected to be on Zoom for full class periods and complete all assigned classwork as scheduled unless it becomes necessary for parents, teachers, and counseling staff to create a different plan for a student.
We are planning on having a dedicated space to serve as an alternate entry and work area for students with compromised health who still want to be in the building. This option should allow for some interaction with a small group of peers and may allow for some interaction with teachers and Student Services personnel as well, though that will depend on staff availability. This option will NOT preclude the possibility of exposure to coronavirus, but should limit exposure. This option will also be limited to a small number of students, and staff discretion will be used to determine who can access the option should requests exceed the number of available spaces in the dedicated area.
Parents and students must understand and acknowledge that the instruction delivered by teachers this fall will be planned for in-person participation and that by not being physically present, it is possible their educational experience may be negatively impacted. While our teachers will of course work to support and guide each of their students regardless of circumstances, they will not be able or expected to accommodate the distance learning of individual students in the same ways they were able to when all instruction was designed with distance learning in mind. Choosing these options will require additional understanding, flexibility, and communication on the parts of the parents and students involved.
To request either of these options, parents should complete this Google Form by 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 5th (moved back from the original date of July 28th).
Online-Distance Learning Protocols
In the event that a school closure is necessary for any length of time based on the direction of the JCDHE, below are our online-distance learning protocols that we would implement immediately upon being notified of a closure. Based on the feedback from surveys this past spring, our plan will look very similar to this past fourth quarter.
|1st Hour 8:30-9:20||5th Hour 8:30-9:20|
|2nd Hour 9:30-10:20||6th Hour 9:30-10:20|
|3rd Hour 10:30-11:20||7th Hour 10:30-11:20|
|4th Hour 11:30-12:20||8th Hour 11:30-12:20|
|Lunch 12:20-1:00||Lunch 12:20-1:00|
|Thunder Block 1:00-2:00
|Thunder Block 1:00-2:00
|*NB: If an extended closure were necessary for any reason, a 20-minute House Time will be added between 2nd and 3rd hours.||*NB: If an extended closure were necessary for any reason, a 20-minute House Time will be added between 6th and 7th hours.|
- Will be provided with the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment
- Gloves, masks, face shields, gowns, 5 touch-free thermometers
- Sanitizing machine will run throughout the day
- Overnight “bombing” of office nightly
- Provide a seperate room for students/staff who might have COVID-19 or other communicable disease and are waiting for pickup
- Provide a separate space to disseminate daily medicines and regular care of students
- Be the liaison between the Johnson County Health Department and St. James Academy
Protocols for a Positive COVID-19 Case
- Protocols for individuals who have tested positive for COVID 19:
- The individual who tested positive must quarantine for a minimum of 10 days.
- The last three days of the quarantine must be symptom-free in order to come back to the building.
- Protocols for individuals who were a “close contact” of a positive COVID-19 case:
- If anyone is within 6 feet of the individual who tested positive for 10 minutes or longer, they must quarantine for 14 days.
- Protocols for the school:
- KSDE has provided two options for schools if a positive COVID-19 case enters the building:
- Close the school building for 2-5 days and work with the local health department to assess health factors for reopening, OR…
- Remain open but block off the areas in which the person with COVID-19 had been until they are disinfected thoroughly.
- At St. James, we will work to utilize the second option as often as possible.
- If we are able to isolate the positive case to specific rooms, we will shut down the rooms and find an alternate place for the classes that take place in those rooms.
- Those rooms will be left alone for 24 hours, disinfected/fogged in the next 24 hours and open back up for use the following day
- If there are multiple positive cases and/or contact tracing is not possible, we may have to shut down the entire school for 2 to 5 days per direction from JCDHE.
- Communication regarding possible COVID cases is critical. While federal law normally restricts the inquiries school personnel can make regarding medical information, more leeway has been given to schools during the pandemic to assist in contact tracing.
- It will be expected that all parents communicate with the nurse’s office if their student has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been a close contact. While the Health Department should contact the school in this case as well, we believe communication directly between the families and school will be much more timely and effective.
- When there are positive cases, SJA staff will communicate with the families of students who were in a class or activity with the student or teacher who tested positive. Names will not be shared to protect privacy unless needed as part of contact tracing questioning.