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July 27, 2020

Dear Nativity Families,

Over the past two weeks we have had the opportunity to hear from our Nativity parents regarding unanswered questions for the upcoming school year.  We want to help you feel comfortable in your plans for your child’s Fall learning.  To that end, we are reaching out with summary details of our reopening plan and options for learning beginning August 24th along with some frequently asked questions.  

Recommitment Learning Model Choice Form:  
It is important we have a response from you by 3:00 P.M. Friday, July 31st.  After you have reviewed the information below, which includes Decision Tree graphics for health-based responses we will follow, please click this link to recommit to in-person learning OR request distance learning for your child(ren) if you haven't already completed this form.  It is important we have this information to ensure proper personnel, the configuration of classrooms, and school space. 

Governor Walz’s Announcements:
Some have asked whether the announcement by the Governor scheduled for this Thursday afternoon will have an impact on our decision to reopen.  While it is important for us to understand what the public and charter schools around us are planning for the 2020-2021 academic year, those decisions are not likely to impact our plans. Each of our Catholic schools has unique building sizes, enrollments and access to digital platforms necessary to support the in-person and distance learning needs of our students and will continue to work toward our goal to reopen school balancing the educational/social needs of students with protocols and procedures in place that will significantly lower transmittable health risks due to COVID-19 to students and staff.

What will in-school learning look like?

All of our classrooms have been arranged with five to six feet between desks depending on the classroom size.  We have also arranged desks so that all students K-8 will be facing in the same direction. Tables were removed from the kindergarten classrooms and replaced with desks to help with social distancing.  We moved a small second and third-grade classroom into the former computer labs to provide for additional space between students’ desks.  The floors will be taped (with the help of parent volunteers) around each desk to help the students maintain their appropriate distance while learning.  In the primary grades, (K-2) there will be spots marked where they can sit on the carpet and still provide additional space between students.  

Our current class size, if all students choose in-person learning, will be 20-22 students in grades 1-5.  Kindergarten is smaller with 16 or 17 in each room.  Middle school classes will be divided into three learning groups at each grade level for three periods a day (groups of 25-28 students) and divided into four different groups for four core classes to accommodate our leveled math classes (groups of 11-26 students). The hallways will be marked for traveling in one direction only with one middle school grade level moving in the hallways at a time.  We have added a fourth homeroom for 7th-grade students to lower the number of students in each room for arrival, dismissal, lunch, and middle school FLEX period which will be held at the end of each day this year.

Cubby spaces for students in grades 4-8 will be utilized at approximately half capacity and alternative spaces in each homeroom will be identified for student belongings to limit congregating (crates placed on window ledges and shelving throughout the classrooms will be converted to makeshift storage for students).

Families who choose this model for learning may not transition to the distance learning model during phase one (until mid-October) unless their child or a family member tests positive for COVID or the family makes a long term commitment to distance learning through phase one.  We are not prepared to have students shift in and out of in-person learning on a regular basis.  Students who need to stay home for an illness of any kind may transition to distance learning after they have been out for more than five school days.  A change impacts personnel, time, and resources for transitioning in school learners to distance learning.

How does the governor’s mask requirement impact our students and staff?

Nativity’s reopening plan already calls for face coverings to be worn by all students in grades 4-8.  As previously stated, students in grades K-3 will wear face coverings when they enter and exit school, when they are in shared areas of the building, and when a specialist teacher enters their room.  Additionally, when they are not seated at their desks (which allows for social distancing) they will wear face coverings. All children in PreK-3 who choose to wear a mask at all times are welcome to do so if they are able to manage their masks appropriately. Preschool children will only wear face coverings when they enter and exit the school and when walking in shared spaces.  All students will be given mask breaks throughout the day including recess, phy. ed., lunch, and outdoor learning times.

We know this will be a challenge for our younger learners, and their teachers will do their best to give them breaks outside when needed so that they can remove their masks while maintaining social distance.

What will distance learning look like for those needing an alternative to in-school learning?
We have developed a more robust method for delivering content to students who will be engaged in distance learning from home this year.  We have determined which digital tools will be used to support the learning process at each grade level - Google Classroom for students in grades 3-8 and Seesaw for students in grades K-2. Our goal is to provide synchronous (live-stream) instruction from the classrooms rather than pre-made videos for those in distance learning to receive the benefit of live instruction over Zoom when possible.  We have hired distance learning coordinators to be the primary conduit of communication with families learning from home.  

It is our expectation that families will pick up work on a weekly basis to ensure the students have the appropriate materials to support their learning - including resources for hands-on experiences. In order for students to be successful learning from home, it is our expectation that a parent, or their designee, will oversee the learning process from home including managing the student’s schedule to ensure they are present for live-streamed instruction. The students utilizing distance learning will be assigned to a homeroom, and their teacher will connect with them once or twice a week to support their learning and help build a connection to them and their peers. Those in middle school will meet with their teachers in cohorts of distance learners per grade level each week.

Families who choose this option to begin the school year must remain in this model until the mid-October break at which time they can reevaluate their decision. A change impacts personnel, time, and resources for transitioning distance learners back to the classroom.

How will rooms without operable windows be safe for our students and teachers?
We are fortunate to have a newer mechanical system in the school which supports our students, staff and guests well. We have upgraded the air filter system to utilizing MERV 14 filters (often used in hospitals) to help purify the air being exchanged in the building.  We were informed last week by the St. Paul Public Schools Supervisor of Student Health and Wellness that we should let our mechanical system do its job by maximizing the outdoor air exchange to create the healthiest classroom environment.  Rooms without operable windows will utilize a combination of air conditioning and increased outdoor air exchange through the mechanical system. Rooms with operable windows will open their windows during the day and will maximize air exchange throughout the day. All rooms will benefit from an increased air exchange throughout the night hours. 

Rooms with inoperable windows include:  One 2nd and 3rd-grade classroom, the 4th-grade classrooms, the art and music room, the middle school science labs, library, auditorium, gym, cafeteria, academic support, counseling, and our school office.

We are creating some outdoor learning spaces for the fall which will allow for classes to meet outside on a rotating basis including music, art, middle school phy. ed. and other classes as appropriate. 

How will lunch and recess work?
Students in grades K-5 will have a mid-morning recess and a recess at lunch.  Middle school students will have a lunch recess. We have added an additional recess time period to lessen the number of students at each recess time. The grade levels will be paired for recess:

Morning Recess:                  Lunch and Recess:
K and 5th                                    6th and 8th
2nd and 4th                                5th and 7th
1st and 3rd                                  2nd and 4th
                                                      1st and 3rd
                                                      K - private lunch recess
  • Kinders are isolated to playground equipment for morning recess and 5th graders will use the playground open space for recess.
  • Phy. Ed. classes will also be taught outside, weather permitting, and will have a designated space for their play separate from the play zone for recess.
  • There will be four shifts for lunch each day with one grade level eating in the lunchroom and one eating in their classrooms during each shift. 
  • Teachers may occasionally bring their students outside for their lunch period when possible.
  • Our goal is to limit the co-mingling of grade levels as much as possible.

What are the factors that would determine the entire school shifting to distance learning for a defined period of time or indefinitely?
  • A confirmed positive case of COVID-19 by a teacher or student (potentially short closure).
  • A substantial community spread of COVID-19 based on positive testing (potentially longer closure).
  • The number of teachers/staff available to teach does not meet essential criteria. (unknown length of closure needed).

What is the plan if a student or staff member has symptoms consistent with COVID-19 OR tests positive for COVID -19?
We will follow the guidance of the CDC and MN Department of health when and if this happens. We fully anticipate that these guidelines will continue to change and we will adjust our plan accordingly.

We remain committed to partnering with all of our families in the model of learning that works best for them. There is still much unknown about COVID -19 and how it will impact our community in the year ahead.  We have an ever-evolving flow of guidance and recommendations from a variety of resources including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Minnesota Department of Health, and the Center for Disease Control. Our plan is flexible and will adapt to significant shifts in the risk levels related to major surges close to and within our community.  We will be prepared to shift to short or longer-term closing of the school building based on these changes.  Thank you for putting your trust in us during these uncertain times.

Sincerely,
Kate Wollan        Sandy Kane
Principal             Assistant Principal


Link to recommitment to in-person learning or request distance learning for 2020-2021: Due Friday, July 31st by 3:00 P.M. - Thank you!



1900 Stanford Ave | St Paul, MN 55105 US
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