By Melanie Petrucci, Senior Community Reporter
Shrewsbury – Reopening plans for the fall semester of the 2020-2021 school year were recently released to the St. John’s High School community with an emphasis not only on student’s physical well-being but also their mental well-being, in light of the pandemic.
The school will welcome 940 boys from 65 communities including Rhode Island and Connecticut.
“Our plan, as of Aug. 12 at 2:32 p.m., is to reopen in person,” remarked Headmaster Alex Zequeira.
However, the option to learn remotely if families so desire has been offered. Technology will allow students at home to be fully involved and engaged in a livestream format.
Their reopening plan was formed with guidance from their Return to Campus Task Force, their Board of Trustees and advice from medical professionals and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)
The first day of classes with everyone back, whether in person or remotely, will be Thursday, Sept. 10.
When asked how about the plan itself, Principal Margaret Granados: “Every decision a school is making is based on their own unique situation. We are one large school. We had a lot to consider but we recognize the blessings of having three very large buildings on campus. We can do this in a safe and healthy way.”
Zequeira noted that while they will slowly be bringing their students back onto campus, one grade at a time, in the midst of the pandemic, they are also introducing a Middle School division to their campus with the addition of seventh and eighth grades.
He said that the pandemic will have no impact to this plan as they have the capacity to add these two grades, even when implementing three-foot spacing; six-foot when they can.
During orientation, students will be walked through the changes they will experience. For instance: masks will be required, hallways will be one-way, doorways will be designated for entrancing and exiting, lunches will be grab and go and there will be enhanced hygiene protocols.
“We are going to go back to ‘how do you wash your hands,’” Zequeira commented.
He said that there will be outdoor spaces that they will be utilizing and their ventilation systems exceed regulated levels, classrooms will be sanitized at the end of each period and school day.
“This is the plan for right now,” Granados said. “We have three plans that are ready to go in a moment’s notice…but if public health consideration or considerations on our own campus change, we are ready to be responsive.”
Saint Mary School and Al Hamra Academy, both in Shrewsbury, are also ready for school to start.
Jeannie MacDonough, Saint Mary’s Principal shared, “A survey of the Saint Mary School community indicated that a majority of parents, faculty and staff wanted students to return to the classroom if all suggested guidelines for safety could effectively be put in place.”
They will reopen with in person learning on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Enrollment was capped in classrooms to accommodate the physical distancing of desks, resulting in applicants being place on a wait list. However, the school will also provide a remote learning option.
Al Hamra Academy will reopen with a hybrid model with cohorts of students alternating based on the size of the classrooms. They will require students in grade two and up to wear masks and implement three-foot distancing.
“Families will also be given the option for full remote learning,” School principal Noor Ali said. “We are going to be connected to the classroom for the duration of the day with something that looks like a live stream.”