After a long summer of planning, Montini Catholic is less than a week away from welcoming students back in the building for their first day of the 2020-21 school year. The Lasallian college preparatory school will be beginning their school year in 'hybrid' mode with the hope of returning to full attendance later this fall. In an effort to maintain class sizes and corridor traffic to allow for social distancing, the plan will have half the students in the building on alternating days. Each student has been assigned to a 'Maroon or Gold cohort group' and will be on campus every other day, learning virtually when not in the building. The 'Maroon and Gold rotation' has been plotted out on the calendar for the first four weeks of the school year, allowing students the ability to see those dates on the school's online school calendar.
The school's reopening plan was certified by the Diocese of Joliet just last week. Principal Kevin Beirne assured parents and faculty that the hybrid model will allow the school to space students out in the classroom in such a way that they can minimize the number of students and teachers considered to be in close contact with any one student. Four planning committees were created by the administration to hone in on the different aspects of opening safely and efficiently (Academic Program, School Building, Communications and Community Health & Safety). The final plan represents their collective decisions on how best to begin the 2020-21 school year. "Changes to this plan will be necessitated as circumstances and guidance shift," said Beirne.
"Our smaller school size gives us an edge over larger schools in that we are able to better handle the state's guidelines," said Principal Beirne, upon making the long awaited announcement to faculty, staff and parents. "Ultimately, based on a comprehensive planning process, we feel we’ve devised a plan that will allow us to maximize student learning and engagement in the safest way possible." Beirne couldn't be more proud of the work his colleagues have put in to craft a plan for the re-opening. "As an independent Catholic school, we really do have the ability to make decisions as close to the students as possible. With more than 25 of our educators involved in the process, the plan truly is a reflection of the collective wisdom of the entire group. That said, it wasn't an easy process. In total, our four planning groups met more than 57 times for more than 85 hours."
Key Points to Montini Catholic's Re-Opening Plan:
• All community members will be required to wear a face covering
• Students, faculty, and staff will be temperature scanned upon entering the building each day
• Parents will daily be required to certify that their student(s) is free from virus symptoms
• A robust plan will keep the building clean and sanitized
• Non-athletic extracurricular activities will be conducted within the confines of state guidance
• Athletic participation will be dictated by the IHSA
On days when Bronco students are home, they will be able to access the classroom via live-streaming technology, allowing them to participate in classroom activities when appropriate and to interact with the teacher as needed. Teachers will utilize more flipped lessons in which students will receive instruction while at home and work with the teacher in the classroom to apply that instruction. "Students will report their attendance and are expected to attend each of their classes that day," said Beirne.
While expectation is for all students to participate in the Hybrid Learning model and full in-person learning (once it is considered safe), Montini has recognized that some students may not be able to attend in-person learning for various reasons including those related to their specific health or the health of others in their home environment. "While we do not have an online learning program open to all students, we will work on a case by case basis with those families unable to send their students to school to develop a plan that meets their needs," said Beirne.
Monini's Academic Planning group was led by Assistant Principal Sara Lhotka. This group was tasked with developing portions of the plan that relate to: Hybrid Learning model development, classroom technology acquisition, incoming student summer academic program, grading policies, faculty professional development, stakeholder feedback, school calendar and daily schedule considerations, implications for courses in Fine Arts, Performing Arts, and Health/PE, student long terms absences, substitute teaching capacity, standardized testing, and revision of the current e-Learning plan. "We were able to use this summer to reflect on the e-Learning experience in April and May," informed Lhotka. "While we were very proud of the students and faculty for all they did at the end of the year, we knew that we wanted to find ways to have students back in the building with their teacher." Surveys were circulated to student, parent/guardian, and faculty stakeholder groups to gather feedback after the conclusion of e-Learning during the 2019-20 school year as well as to gather input on the re-opening of school for the 2020-21 school year.
"Campus bandwidth has been doubled in order to facilitate live-streaming of classroom instruction for students engaged in Virtual Learning at home," said Lhotka. "Each classroom will be equipped with a tripod and microphone so teachers can broadcast their classroom as needed." She added that, per state guidance, the school will return to a normal grading protocol to start the school year. "If we are forced back into e-Learning at some point, we will consider amending the grading policy."
"We worked very hard to develop a plan that would provide opportunities for the students at home to engage in the classroom activities with their peers and their teachers," added Lhotka.
"We are confident that we developed a plan that will both engage the students and challenge the students academically. I am excited to have the students and their positive energy back in the building next week."
The school did not let the unprecedented situation interrupt campus improvement projects scheduled for the summer months. "We are excited for our parents and students to see all the upgrades to our campus," said President Jim Segredo. The auditorium underwent a major renovation. The Ed and Pam Mack Learning Resource Center is also undergoing a major reimagining that consists of adding an academic commons, group collaboration areas and meeting space to the existing computer center and student study areas. "This transformation will result in a flexible, collaborative, and attractive learning space for students to engage with their academic work and their classmates," said Segredo. In addition, the girls locker room was renovated as well as the school's Student Services Center. "These improvements will be a nice boost to the morale of our students when they return to campus for the new school year."
"Somehow this has seemed like both the longest and shortest summer break in memory," said Beirne "We are all entering this school year with trepidation, anxiety, fear, uncertainty and disorientation. But, we also look forward with excitement, confidence, zeal, faith & flexibility! We are very excited to continue to carry out our mission of education with our students - we all need each other more than ever!"
Montini Catholic is still accepting applications for the 2020-2021 school year. Parents may call Admissions Representatives: Jennifer Kavanagh at 630-627-6930 (x182) - email@example.com; or Mike Bukovsky at 630-627-6930 (x183) - firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information on our school's reopening plan click here.