Utica, NY - On Thursday, Utica Notre Dame welcomed students back into their classrooms for in-person learning, five days a week.
"What we felt that we were able to provide safely that included: assessing each one of our classrooms; can we figure them in such a way to conform to all the regulations, policies, social distancing and at the same time still be able to have faculty enough to facilitate those. The answer to all those was yes," said Roy Kane, Executive Principal of Utica Notre Dame Schools. "We proposed it to our Board of Trustees and their vote was let’s go.”
Students were coronavirus screened upon arrival and were given a checklist to complete. An hour and a half of general orientation consisted of classroom assignments, coronavirus policies and health and safety protocols.
With full in-person learning comes new class structure.
"I have to give all the credit to our Associate Principal, Mrs. Danea Hurd, who sat down and put together a modified block schedule," said Kane. "We divided Grade 7 through 9 on one floor, 10 through 12 on the second floor. Within those grades she broke them off into three teams and those teams stay together throughout the day within the classroom. Our teachers will do the moving so that if there's any movement from students it's few and far in between.”
Notre Dame's choice to keep students in the classroom has gained interest from parents outside of the district to enroll their children.
"There have been a number of folks who said specifically, “Yes, you are opening five days, were here.” Additionally, we’re running in tandem with an outstanding campaign in partnership with Utica College. We have added a three substantial bridge program which include nine different courses. We kept all classes with a number of seats that we can socially distance. The average right now is 16. Any courses that are larger we do have some we have move those courses to rooms that are much larger than the others," said Kane.
Notre Dame Jr. and Senior High School students will not have access to locker for the time being. A modified block schedule and keeping students in the same classroom for the duration of the school will prevent students from walking around carrying heavy books and personal items in the backpacks. If students maintain social distancing guidelines, this rule will become more relaxed.
Changes to the classroom are followed by changes to the sports landscape. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has decided to move high-risk fall sports seasons to the spring. Now Notre Dame Football, Volleyball and Cheerleading programs are delayed until March 1 to resume.
"We originally planned on September 21 to begin the season. Our Athletic Director is working with our coaches and all the different strategies and methodologies, protocols for Covid. Creating the best atmosphere as we can to facilitate their personal safety."
In the case of a coronavirus outbreak, Kane says they are well prepared.
“If something happens we have a robust learning strategy. Students will also be getting more detailed training – as well as faculty and staff continued training – on that if we ever have to fall back to remote learning.”
So far, 18 students have chosen to learn remotely.
Grades 9, 10 return Friday, September 11 for orientation and grades 11, 12 return Monday, September 14.