School will start Thursday, Sept. 10, at Sacred Heart School, two days later than originally planned, due to a teacher testing positive for COVID-19, said Carl Adophson, the school’s president.
The teacher, who has been quarantined for two weeks, is eligible to return to the classroom Friday, Sept. 11, Adolphson said, noting that, to maintain privacy, the identity and grade-level of the teacher will not be made public.
A substitute teacher will fill in for the quarantined teacher on the first day of school, he said.
Adolphson expects that more COVID-19 cases will arise among students and staff as the 2020-21 school year gets under way, but the school is following public health guidelines meant to minimize the impact of coronavirus, he said.
“We’re reacting to that as best we can,” he said. “We’re operating so teachers are keeping their distance,” so if a case does arise, it affects only a few individuals and does not sideline too many staff members all at once.
“As cases come in, we will treat them individually, on a case-by-case basis, working with Polk County Public Health,” he said.
The school’s leaders are aiming to retain in-person, face-to-face learning as much as possible by requiring the use of face masks by teachers and students at all grade levels and having everyone keep a safe distance from others.
Assigned seating is the norm in each classroom, Adolphson said, and students are encouraged to eat lunch with the same people each day, which limits the number of close contacts to be tracked if a case does emerge.
Some Sacred Heart parents have elected to have their children learn at home rather than at school, presumably, in response to the threat posed by COVID-19.
About 8% of the students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade are choosing distance learning for the first quarter of the school year, Adolphson said. They represent 15 families at the high school level and 12 families at the elementary level -- out of about 300 families associated with the school.
“We understand that everyone is at a different level about their comfort with the situation,” he said.
After the first quarter, families may re-evaluate their choice of distance learning and elect to have their students return to in-person learning at the school.
The missed days at the start of this school year will likely be made up using storm days, which are built into the school calendar, Adolphson said. When a storm day is predicted, the school may use it as an instructional day and teachers would pivot using the distancing learning format.
The school’s Advisory Council, similar to a school board, is planning to discuss this matter when it meets next week, he said.