HTC to strongly encourage masks when school opens

Holy Trinity Schools will strongly encourage face coverings for all students and staff when school resumes on Aug. 24. PCC File photo

Pen City Current

LEE COUNTY – Going back to school is supposed to be simple. You gather your pens, pencils, and notebooks, dig your backpack out of storage, and prepare for the easy school year ahead. In the wake of COVID-19, however, school has become anything but simple.

The desks are now 6 ft. apart, students are strongly encouraged to wear masks, and frequently washing your hands has become more important than ever- this is the new normal.

We’ve seen the changes made at the college level, but how would a smaller school such as Holy Trinity respond to the virus?

Michael Sheerin, principal at Holy Trinity Elementary and Chief Administration Officer, said the priority has to be to keep students and staff safe and healthy.

Masks will be strongly encouraged. However, Sheerin said everyone should be wearing masks while at school to ensure on-site learning can continue.

“First, I want to stress the importance of wearing masks. Our entire staff, from custodians to teachers, has to wear masks. Without them, our school won’t be able to run. We can’t continue school if our teachers are sick.”

Holy Trinity is dedicated to complying with every guideline given from the State, he said,

Masks will be strongly recommended and provided by both schools. Masks and increased distance in classrooms will be crucial to keep both schools running safely. Also, the custodial staff will be cleaning more frequently, students will have access to hand sanitizing stations, and temperature checks will be administered daily.

Holy Trinity has formulated three possible methods for learning: returning to school face to face, a hybrid plan that entails both in-person instruction and online learning, and, in the worst-case scenario, completely remote classes.

“As of right now, there really is no protocol; it’s going to be based on local and state health guidelines to determine what our plan will be,” Sheerin said.

In addition, classrooms at both the high school and elementary school will be altered so desks will maintain the recommended six-foot distance. At the elementary, class sizes of about 15 should be expected.

Regarding lunch and recess, both will be divided into 4 different periods in order to maintain social distancing.

At the high school, social distancing will be much easier.

“We have pretty sizeable classrooms.” Sheerin said, “It (social distancing) shouldn’t be an issue.”

As stated in the hybrid plan, there may be “A” and “B” groups that alternate between in-person instruction and online instruction.

“With health conditions allowing, we want to utilize the method that maximizes the most face to face time,” Sheerin said.

Holy Trinity recently released the full plans for the coming year; two parents interviewed were positive about the changes.

Angie Box and Dr. Mark Pothitakis feel confident sending their children back to school.

“I am very excited for the kids to get back to the classroom. They really benefit from interacting with their peers and teachers,” Box said.

Pothitakis shared a similar opinion.

“I’m all for going back to school. With kids wearing masks and following the guidelines, they can still benefit from in-person learning while adhering to the state guidelines and keeping each other safe.,” he said.

With a significant number of unknowns surrounding the upcoming school year, plans are bound to change.

“We’re making ourselves extremely malleable and recognizing that plans can and may change through the course of the year,” added Sheerin.

“We don’t want to stress any parents and we’re trying to make the process as easy as possible. The entire plan will develop as COVID-19 does and we’re doing our best to send our kids back to school.”

The anticipated start date of Holy Trinity is the 24th of August.

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