Health and Safety
Q: What does “reopening our schools” really mean?
A: Gathering as a school community is an integral part of Catholic education. Our plan is to reopen our school buildings to students this fall. This means that all students are welcome to return to classes for face-to-face instruction as long as we are in Phase 4, 5 or 6. Each school has developed an in-depth plan that addresses numerous aspects of the reopening process, and how they will function once reopened.
Q: Will students be safe when school is reopened?
A: Safety is always our top priority in Catholic education. In constructing our reopening plan, we have closely studied guidance from medical professionals as well as federal and state authorities.
Q: Who decides when a school has met the requirements to reopen? When will this happen?
A: Our Diocesan plan includes specific requirements that all Catholic schools must meet in order to reopen. Our diocesan plan, which follows the MI Safe Schools: Michigan’s 2020-21 Return to School Roadmap, will be submitted to the State for approval. Additionally, each school must also develop their own site-specific plan and submit it to the diocese for review and approval.
Q: Why do faith-based schools have to follow the requirements from the State of Michigan?
A: Faith-based schools must follow State issued Executive Orders unless they interfere with religious beliefs.
Q: Will all students be allowed to return to school at the same time?
A: Yes. Our Phase 4, 5 & 6 plan provides for the return of all Catholic school students for full-day instruction.
Q: Will students and staff need to wear masks at school?
A: Yes. As per directives of the state, in Phase 4, all students and staff are required to wear facial coverings when indoor in common areas.
Additionally, in Phase 4 the following is required:
- All students in grades 6-12 will need to wear masks while at school, unless facial coverings cannot be medically tolerated as documented through written and signed verification by a physician. Masks may be removed for brief periods of time under certain circumstances (such as lunch or outdoor class or activity). However, when masks are removed, students must remain physically distant from one another.
- All students in grades kindergarten through 5 will not be required to wear facial coverings in their classrooms, unless (1) students do not remain with their cohort class throughout the school day and (2) come into close contact with students in another class. (If grades K – 5 students are required to wear masks the same medical exceptions applies as for grades 6-12)
- All staff will wear facial coverings when in classrooms, except (1) during meals and (2) unless face coverings cannot be medically tolerated as documented through written and signed verification by a physician.
Q: Why are students in grades 6-12 required to wear facial coverings while students in grades K-5 do not have the same requirement?
A: Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization recommend cloth masks for the general public. Health experts say the evidence is clear that masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and that the more people wearing masks, the better.
Health experts have also determined that students in grades K-5 face a greater health risk while wearing a face mask. Students in this grade range have a low risk of serious complications from COVID-19 infection and aren't expected to reliably wear face masks to be an effective barrier for an extended period of time.
Q: Do I need to purchase masks for my child?
A: Please refer to your individual school’s policy regarding the purchasing of masks. If disposable masks are used, each mask must be thrown away at the end of every school day and parents should be prepared to send plenty of extra masks to school with their child. For reusable masks, masks should be cleaned after every use and students should have at least one extra reusable mask at school.
Q: Can face shields be used instead of masks?
A: At this time, guidance from the State is that face shields are not a replacement for face masks.
Q: Will teachers teach children how to use masks?
A: Yes. We know that students will need training to learn how to properly wear and remove masks. Schools will spend time at the beginning of the year helping children learn how to safely keep masks in place. Families can help with this at home by practicing with their children.
Q: Will students be required to physically distance at school?
A: When students are with their class or cohort, they are to remain as far apart as feasible.
Q: Should I take my child’s temperature every day before school?
A: Yes. A high fever is a key symptom of COVID-19. Parents should take their child’s temperature every day before their child is taken to school. If your child has a fever of over 100.4°F, your is to be kept home from school. You should contact your child’s doctor and the school’s main office. Similarly, you should ask your child if he/she has any of the other symptoms of COVID-19, such as a sore throat, coughing, or nausea. If your child complains of these symptoms, you must keep him/her home and contact your doctor and the school office. If a child presents with these symptoms at school a parent will be contacted to come pick them up immediately.
Q: How will drop off and pick-up be handled?
A: We are asking each school administration to carefully evaluate drop off and pick up procedures. Schools will use various entrances and exits to minimize contact between student cohorts. Parents will be asked not to congregate near school doors. Your school’s administrators will communicate specific drop off and pick up procedures to you ahead of the start of school.
Q: What does the plan say about safety and cleanliness requirements for school buildings?
A: Our plan includes very specific requirements for the ongoing cleaning and sanitizing of our school buildings. Generally speaking, buildings will be cleaned very frequently, with a particular focus on high-traffic areas and common surfaces. Windows and/or vents should be opened to maximize air flow.
Q: How will lunch take place when school reopens?
A: Cafeterias, classrooms and outdoor spaces may be used for meal times. Social distancing, physical barriers as well as staggering meal times to reduce the number of students in the cafeteria at one time are all options schools may use. Serving and cafeteria staff will use barrier protection including gloves and masks.
Q: What about recess?
A: Schools may still conduct recess, but schools must fulfill defined safety requirements. If recess is outdoors, masks may be removed if students can social distance.
Q: Can I still volunteer at school?
A: Schools will minimize the number of volunteers this year in an effort to mitigate risk.
Q: Will extended care (before and after care) be available this year?
A: Schools may continue to offer extended care and will follow LARA Regulations.
Q: My child and/or another member of my household is in an at-risk group for COVID-19. Should I send my child to school?
A: Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has defined conditions in which certain people may be more at risk for severe illness through COVID-19. If your child or another member of your household is in an at-risk group, we encourage you to speak to your doctor. Ultimately you should decide whether it is safe for your child to attend school.
Q: Is it okay for my family to travel out of town during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: We recommend that you not travel out of town during the current pandemic. However, if travel is necessary, we encourage you to become familiar with the CDC’s Travel Guidelines and your local Health Department’s protocols. If you or a member of your household travels to another country or to a state identified by the CDC as having a surge in COVID-19 cases, your school may ask you to wait for 14 days until returning your child to school.
Q: What happens if there is a COVID-19 surge in a region within the Diocese of Lansing and the state imposes more restrictions on schools?
A: If a COVID-19 surge occurs, we will work closely with state officials to determine whether we can continue face-to-face instruction. If necessary, we will return to at-home virtual instruction.
Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
A: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has identified several symptoms of COVID-19, including high fever (above 100.4°F), new or unusual sore throat, coughing, nausea, headache, muscle aches, loss of taste or smell, runny nose, fatigue, diarrhea and difficulty breathing.
Q: What should I do if my child has symptoms of COVID-19?
A: If your child shows new or unusual symptoms of COVID-19, you should contact your doctor immediately. Your doctor may ask that your child participate in a COVID-19 test. You should alert your school’s main office.
If the symptoms occur during the school day, your child will be immediately sent to a quarantine area in the school and you will be contacted to pick your child up from school.
Q: My child had COVID-19-like symptoms, but tested negative for COVID-19. When can he/she return to school?
A: If your child does not have COVID-19, but has another illness, please keep your child home until they are symptom free for at least 24 hours. Your school may have additional requirements for a return to school.
Q: What should I do if my child tests positive for COVID-19?
A: Immediately contact your doctor for additional instructions. You must also contact your school’s main office and they will contact the local health department. Do not send your child to school.
Q: When can a student return to school after receiving a positive COVID-19 test?
A: If a student tests positive for COVID-19, the student must isolate and not return to school until they have met CDC’s criteria to discontinue home isolation. This includes:
- Three or more days without a high fever;
- A reduction of other COVID symptoms by at least 75 percent; and
- At least 14 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.
Q: What should I do if a member of my household (who is not my child) tests positive for COVID-19?
A: Immediately contact your school’s main office. Your school will contact the local health department. After contacting the health department, the school will provide you with specific instructions on how long your child must stay home.
Q: What happens if my child’s teacher tests positive for COVID-19?
A: Should any employee have COVID-19 symptoms or tests positive for COVID-19, we will follow the same protocols used for students. Parents will be made aware that a teacher tested positive. All students taught by that teacher will be closely monitored for COVID-19 symptoms and schools will follow local health department guidance.
Q: What happens if another student in my child’s class tests positive for COVID-19?
A: Schools will follow the same protocols used for teachers (see above) and make all parents aware of positive test(s). Schools will follow local health department guidance.
Q: Could my child’s school building be closed down due to COVID-19 this year?
A: Schools will follow local health department guidance. Schools are implementing protocols and procedures to create a safe and healthy environment in the coming year. However, if numerous cases appear in a single school, resulting in the isolation of multiple classes/cohorts, we may need to close the school building and transition all students to virtual learning for a time. Parents will be updated regularly should that need arise.
Academics and Programming
Q: Will my child’s curriculum be changed this year?
A: Schools will still deliver high-quality, rigourous instruction in core subjects (religion, language arts, math, science and social studies). Special requirements will be in place for departmentalized classes and special area subjects (see sections below). The implementation of safety and health requirements (outlined earlier in this FAQ) will create new complexities in instruction, but our commitment remains to provide your child the best possible faith-based education.
Q: Will my child’s classroom look different?
A: Schools will spread out desks and tables in classrooms as much as possible. In order to maximize floorspace, some non-essential furniture and other classroom items will be removed. Also, when feasible, desks and tables will be arranged so that they face the front of the room. These steps were taken to minimize risk of any infection in the classroom.
Q: Will students share school supplies?
A: As much as possible, schools to ensure that students not share school supplies (e.g., books, crayons, technology, etc.), including for such subjects as art and music. Exceptions may be made for activities outdoors (such as outdoor physical education classes). If it is impossible to avoid sharing supplies, such as computers in a computer lab, such supplies must be cleaned after every use.
Q: Will students still change classes?
A: Many schools offer departmentalization, in which students change classes for core subjects (religion, language arts, math, science and social studies). If students change classrooms, desks and shared equipment will be cleaned and disinfected after every cohort.
Q: Will schools still offer classes in special subject areas (e.g., art, music, PE, etc.)?
A: Yes. If students visit spaces such as the gymnasium, computer/STEM lab or library, the desks and equipment will be cleaned after every cohort.
Q: Will students participate in field trips?
A: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, schools will not participate in in-person field trips while the District is in Phase 4. If a District moved to Phase 5, schools will follow the guidance of local health department and local health officials on the feasibility of future trips.
Q: I need to meet with a teacher or my school principal. Can these meetings occur?
A: Yes. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these meetings will usually take place virtually via phone or video chat.
Q: Will school Masses still take place?
A: Yes. The Diocese of Lansing has established guidelines for parishes to develop a plan for the celebration of Mass. Schools will be asked to follow this plan, in close coordination with the local pastor and parish, to establish how school Masses will be celebrated.
Q: How will extracurricular activities be impacted this year?
A: Our plan provides guidance on specific extracurricular activities. Highlights of this guidance include (by activity):
- Athletics: We are awaiting further information from the state and the MHSAA regarding athletics. More information will be provided to parents as it is known.
- Other Activities: For other activities (e.g., robotics, debate, etc.), schools must meet specific health and safety requirements. If such requirements cannot be met, these activities should be conducted virtually or canceled.
Tuition and Fees
Q: Will schools still collect tuition this year?
A: Yes. While this school year may look different, our schools will continue to provide rigorous programs and experiences to support each student’s growth in knowledge, wisdom and virtue. Our Catholic schools depend upon tuition revenue to pay our employees who do this work and support other school-related expenses.
Q: I am having difficulty paying tuition, as my own workplace has been impacted by COVID-19. What do I do?
A: We know that some families may have difficulties paying tuition due to the loss of pay during workplace closures and our schools are ready to support those in need of assistance. If this is happening to you, please contact your school’s principal. We to help and will do our very best to work with you.
Q: Will fees be changed this year?
A: Each school develops their own fees based upon their own local needs. Fees may be adjusted if a program or activity has been directly impacted by COVID-19. For example, if a fee is collected for a particular field trip, it is likely that the fee will not be collected this year (as field trips will not occur).
Q: Is there an option for online learning if a family cannot or wishes not to send their child to in person classes?
A: Please contact your school. At this time, this option is not available at all DOL schools. Regarding families or children who may be immuno-compromised, principals have been advised to work with families in developing a practical solution to accommodate such a need.
Q: What if the District our school is in moves to Phase 3?
A: If a school resides in a District that moves to Phase 3, following the state mandates, that school will return to their distance learning protocols. All DOL schools have been instructed to review their distant learning plans and seek feedback from teachers and parents. Using this feedback and guidance from the DOL, all schools will publish their distance learning plans along with their Phase 4 and Phase 5 plans.