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Reopening at St. Peter RC School in Lewiston: 'FAITH...FAMILY...FUTURE...SAFE'

Fri, Aug 28th 2020 12:00 pm

By President/Principal Maureen Ingham

To say that things are different now than they were six short months ago is an understatement for sure. Life had come to almost a complete halt back in March and at St. Peter School we felt the impact of COVID-19 like everyone else.

Schools closed immediately, and our long-awaited opening night for the spring musical ‘Frozen Jr.’ was postponed ... and then canceled – much to the sadness of the over 30 cast and crew members who had worked for several months in preparation for the “big day!”

But our musical was not the only thing that was stopped in its tracks, and for children everywhere, the closure of school meant that they were not seeing their friends, and it was this connection and social interaction, so critical to development and relationship building, that they missed more than anything. Remote learning was in place in a matter of two short days thanks to the unbelievable determination and unprecedented dedication of the teachers at St. Peter R.C. School. We have heard from educators and parents across the region that our children were well exposed to the learning for their grade level, and that it appears they did not miss a beat. We deployed technology where needed, packets were delivered, and the “new normal” took over rather seamlessly for our students.

Fast forward to May and June, when we knew we would not return to school, and the creation of summer packets, makeshift graduations, classroom closings, and end of year alternate plans took place, and the long and determined hours of planning for reopening began. Surrounded by a team of professionals from across the community, and representing a host of areas of expertise, and led by the team of Dr. Briana Jegier, Darlene Sprague, Barbara Malinowski and Candyce Ingwersen, the principal and pastor set out to listen to the voices of the families and to respond, within the reopening plan, to what they wanted for their children. Thus ... a five-day, full-day week plan, with all of its implementation requirements, was underway.

With research shared, studies reviewed, data collected and a constant watch on the ever-changing pandemic status in our area, the team moved forward and today stands ready to begin opening with their “soft-openings” Aug. 27-Sept. 3. These soft openings allow students from each grade level to come into school on their designated half-day and meet with their teacher, drop off their supplies and see and learn about all of the differences they will encounter this September.

On entering the classrooms, students will see:

√ Assigned seating areas that allow for a 6-foot square workspace for each child to sit and work and keep their belongings. Color-coordinated floor tape help brighten up the rooms along with the creative ways that the teachers have built their classrooms to be safe as well as inviting.

√ Class size limits have been placed in each room with square footage of the room determining the number of children/adults in each room.

√ Cabinets, tables and other accessory furniture has been moved to the corners of the classroom, stored in the hall or on the stage, to allow for adequate and required student spacing in each classroom.

√ Additional classrooms have been added in several grades to accommodate the increased enrollment that has been encountered due to our strong remote presence last spring and the five-day per week option we are offering at this time.

√ Signage is present throughout the building as reminders to remain socially distant when in the hallways, to wear a mask when required based on regulations, to follow the directional arrows for safe movement through the halls, and to engage in frequent handwashing and sanitizing.

√ Students in grades K-8 will eat in the cafeteria with strict guidelines to allow for distancing, but conversation while eating.

√ Outdoor recess will occur daily, and physical education will be held outdoors whenever possible.

Pictured, from left: Robert Trunzo of Modern Corp. and St. Peter R.C. Parish Administrator the Rev. Cole Webster. Modern recently donated the new marketing wrap that can be seen on the bus. Webster said the vehicle would be used to reach out-of-area students who might be interested in attending the school, but lack bus transportation.

All staff has been trained as to safety protocols that have been put in place via our reopening plan, which is posted on our website for public access. Additional hall monitors have been added to our staff to ensure safe travel throughout the building at all times.

Middle school and special area teachers will move from room to room while students will safely stay in their homeroom each day, for instructional purposes.

We have purchased an at-home temperature-taking device that has been distributed to each family. KINSA requires that each family download the KINSA app to their smart phone and take the temperature of each family member that either works at or attends SPS, as well as to answer the standard COVID-19 questions. Once this process has been completed, a “green badge” will appear on the smart phone. This green badge must be shown to the bus driver before getting on the bus or to the staff as children disembark each morning from their cars

With no one but staff and students entering the building, at all times, and the implementation of the KINSA program, we are determined to do our very best to keep any germs entering our building.

A “warm line” has been set up by our parish nurse and reopening committee health liaison, Barbara Malinowski. This warm line will allow parents to call a designated registered nurse or physician’s assistant, who has volunteered to be a part of this project, from 7-8 a.m. and 7-8 p.m. to ask any COVID-19-related questions about their child that they have.

Initially, we will not attend our weekly Mass in the church as a school family, but Father Cole Webster will celebrate Mass at 9 am each Friday and it will be live-streamed into each classroom’s smartboard as we continue our weekly worship together ... but just temporarily in a different way.

But while many things will look different, we have not, nor will we ever change the essence of the St. Peter R.C. School message:

We are children of God, created in His likeness and here to do His work.

We come to learn, to grow in faith, and to go forth to serve as we remain united in Jesus Christ. We are kind to one another, we are sensitive to the needs and feelings of others and together we are continuing to build the Body of Christ.

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