Keeping QA Safe in the Midst of the Pandemic
Masks On. Eyes Bright. Hearts Open. Hands Washed.
Keeping Queen of Angels Safe in the Midst of the Pandemic
The mission of Queen of Angels Catholic School, to “meet the spiritual, academic, social, and emotional needs of each student,” has never been more important than during these unprecedented times. We at Queen of Angels have been called on to adapt aspects of our teaching and program as well as implement protocols throughout the facility to ensure the well-being and safety of faculty, staff, and students. Though many of our traditions look different, we continue to be on campus for in-person learning and to provide excellence in Catholic education.
Late last Spring, the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Office of Catholic Schools collaborated in forming a COVID-19 Task Force to share policies and procedures from the CDC, Fulton County Department of Health, and the State of GA. Guided by their work and the QA task force, Principal Dr. Jamie Arthur developed a School Reopening Plan that provided protocols for families of Queen of Angels using best practices and the most recent research.
For students, wearing masks, social distancing, and daily temperature checks were the “tip of the iceberg”. Parents were provided a checklist for symptoms to check daily prior to bringing their child to school. Once on campus, everyone in the car is scanned by state-of-the-art digital thermometers. A sick clinic was established for students who exhibit symptoms during the day that could be related to COVID – 19. Once in their homerooms, students remain in a “cohort”, do not change classes, and have assigned areas on the playground/fields. Grade K-5 classrooms look different with non-essential furniture, bookcases, and centers removed so that desks can be appropriately distanced from one another. While it is a loss for our school community, students do not interact with other members of the school to allow for better contact tracing if there is a positive case. In addition, exposure is minimized with the “no share” of supplies, equipment, and materials policy. And… handwashing, handwashing, and handwashing.
Families have been given the option for in-person (IPL) or distance-home learning (DHL) each quarter. Enhanced licenses for teachers were purchased to ensure DHL students has access to their classrooms. Collecting every Chromebook in the school and purchasing additional ones, we were able to implement a 1:1 ratio in grades 3-8. Other devices throughout the school (iPads, Chrome boxes, computers) are sanitized between student use with an alcohol solution. New ClearTouch panels were installed over the summer months to facilitate participation in real time of DHL students with the ability of having access to the same information as IPL students. In the event of a quarantine or school closure, additional software licensing for individual students was purchased that allows for diagnostics, remediation, and enrichment. All students and parents in grades K-8 have been instructed on how to access and use Google classroom, which provides easy access for downloading work and uploading completed assignments.
Faculty and staff have shown our community a new level of creativity, dedication, and commitment in adjusting to teaching in the midst of a pandemic. Professional development during the week of in-service in August focused on the many tools – Google classroom, IXL, Zoom, SWIVL Robots, ClearTouch Boards – that would guide learning as we prepared to open and in the event of a quarantine. Subject area and enrichment teachers now rotate into the classrooms, facilitated by the purchase of carts to ease the transportation between classes of curricular material. Balancing DHL and IPL students has presented many challenges and modifications to the traditional classroom. When classes or pods have been quarantined, teaching from home requires many hours of extra planning to ensure standards are met and learning continues. Designated areas for faculty and staff have been arranged with limited seating for lunch or to work during planning periods. Cleaning and sanitizing classrooms are a routine part of their responsibilities each school day, especially after lunch when desks are wiped down with two different solutions and classrooms fogged with an antibacterial/antiviral solution. Instruction and learning is very different in the year of the pandemic!
Hosting nearly 500 students and a staff of 65 requires facility-wide enhancements to ensure the QA campus is safe. Upgraded HEPA filters were installed on the HVAC system, air filtration units were purchased for each classroom and office, nightly spraying with an antiviral agent has been implemented, fields have been sectioned off for cohorts to safely play during recess, and modifications have been made to morning and afternoon carpool. Each Monday our facility team refills cleaning and sanitizing solutions, hand sanitizer, the alcohol solution, and replenishes paper towels. Arrows mark the hallways, and signs reminding our community of social distancing and handwashing are hung throughout the facility. In the event of a quarantine, the maintenance staff has become adept at setting up tables for families to “drive by” and pick up books, uniforms, and supplies Additional carts have been purchased for students to return their books/supplies when it is time to come back.
Despite the pandemic, our traditions at Queen of Angels have been reimagined so that we can continue the activities and events that are integral to the QA experience. We are grateful to the Home & School Association and administration for their overwhelming support enabling grade-level service projects, the Living Rosary, presentations in the performing arts, and special events including Grandparent’s Day and the Nativity to continue. As parent presence on campus is limited, a “live-stream” camera was purchased so that we can ensure the QA community has access to the many events we host. We are committed to continue to look for ways to keep these foundational events available to the QA community for the duration of the pandemic.
Key to making all this work is the partnership we have with our parents. Without reservation, they have been wonderful in supporting the many changes and criteria for IPL. It is without doubt that this year is like no other, but the Queen of Angels Community remains Steadfast in Faith and Joyful in HOPE!