COVID Blast – July 31, 2020

The school was given permission by the Superintendent of Utah Catholic Schools, Mark Longe, to explore the possibility of not attending school on Fridays. The Administrative Team invited the faculty/staff, the Executive Committee of the School Board (president, vice-president, secretary), and the members of the Health and Safety Committee to give comments on this matter. After consideration of all the comments received, the Administrative Team has decided that, to begin the year, students will not be on campus or required to complete online learning on Fridays. There is not a set time period for the four-day school week, but it is our goal to be back together on campus five days each week as soon as the current situation allows. So, school will only be open Monday-Thursday, 8:15am-3:15pm. (Your exact time may be different based on what your last name is and the staggered drop-off and pick-up times.) Extended Daycare and Nano Nagle Children’s Center will also be closed on Fridays.

We did not make this decision lightly because we understand that this may lead to some families leaving due to the need for childcare/school five days each week. However, there are three compelling factors that swayed us to close school on Fridays: Teacher retention, the emotional well-being of our community, and promoting a safer environment.

First, we are asking the teachers to perform a tremendous, even dangerous, task. The Administrative Team believes that giving the extra day for teachers to complete work from the current week and prepare for the week to come is necessary because of the added effort that teaching during COVID demands. Also, we are asking teachers and staff to sustain this effort over what could be a long time period. In this regard, we are thinking of the short-term value of teachers being at their best for our children and the long-term value of retaining our quality staff. (The stance of the Utah Education Association demanding of the governor that most schools start the year online highlights the need to take care of our teachers and staff.)

Second, the Administrative Team believes that taking Fridays off is necessary for the emotional well-being of the people in our community. We anticipate that going to school Monday through Thursday will be an intense experience for all involved. The three-day weekend will make the four-day school week a more productive and happier experience. (Teachers will provide optional activities that parents may choose to complete with their children on Fridays.)

Third, the custodial staff will be able to do a deep cleaning of our facilities with no one in the buildings. No Fridays also means fewer contacts between people in our community, thus decreasing our chances of COVID transmission.

Also, in order to more slowly acclimate to the new school environment, the school has decided to abbreviate the first week somewhat. Only students with last names beginning with A-H will attend school on Monday, August 17 (until 12:30), and only students with names I-Z will attend school on Tuesday, August 18 (until 12:30). All students will attend school on Wednesday, August 19 and Thursday, August 20. Only having half of the students in the school on Monday the 17th and on Tuesday the 18th will allow us to practice our new routines and work out problems before everyone is in school on Wednesday the 19th.

We need to clarify something about the school’s home learning policy. (We realized that the latest blast email correspondence was unintentionally misleading.) This is what our COVID plan states about home learning:

If you have specific concerns because your child is considered “at-risk” or you live with someone who is in a high risk category, please contact Mr. Green (ggreen@stvincents-school.org) to discuss the possibility of remote learning. 

Per diocesan policy, St. Vincent’s cannot offer home learning to just anyone who wants it, unless the entire school is doing home learning. If you have questions as to whether you would qualify for home learning or not, please contact me (ggreen@stvincents-school.org) or Sarah Lambert (slambert@stvincents-school.org).

We imagine that some families disagree with paying the full tuition for less supervision time or less service. This is completely reasonable; we would be asking the same if we were parents employed outside the school. The tuition will be the same because the effort that the school is providing for the families is greater this year than in any year before, despite the supervision time being less. (The amount of time that the entire staff has put in this summer in preparation for the year is multiple times more than in any year we have seen before.) Second, the Utah Catholic Schools principals and the superintendent discussed the possibility of offering a tuition discount for schools that go to a hybrid model or who take one day off each week. The clear consensus was that giving a discount would not reflect the effort involved, and the discount would inevitably lead to layoffs which would damage the school.

Again, we understand that the changes we have made may cause some to leave our community, at least temporarily. We hope that you understand that this decision was made collectively and based on the best interests of the entire school community. Only time will tell if what we are doing is correct, but we will adjust as conditions change. Besides being the year of COVID, this is the year of flexibility and hope.

Blessings,
The Administrative Team (Gary Green, Sarah Lambert, Kerry Hankins, Kara Haney)