St. Joseph's leaders prepare for students' return in fall

Miranda Holman
Paris Express

St. Joseph’s Catholic School education leaders have put a plan into action on how they will safely reopen this fall, but they know that reopening plans may change on short notice.

With so much unknown on how the country will fully reopen with a COVID-19 pandemic far from over, there is also the possibility that many schools will restart in the fall through remote learning only — a prospect that St. Joseph’s educators say they hope to avoid, yet they are prepared for.

“We are ready to have our kids back in classes,” said Principal Shirley Kiefer. “Right now, we are in that stage of waiting to see what the Arkansas Department of Health and the education department says for the public schools.”

St. Joseph’s School follows the guidance of the Bishop under being part of the Diocese and Fr. Reginald Udouj. OSB said that the Bishop has been very forthcoming in following the education department guidelines.

“Right now, we are going by the guidelines that are in place and which we will continue to do. We are working on forecasting what the climate will be for when school starts, but there is no way to know right now,” said Fr. Reginald Udouj, OSB.

Students at St. Joseph’s Catholic School, who have been at home since mid-March because of the coronavirus outbreak, will return to a different classroom norm this fall, according to administration.

“Students will have their temperatures checked at the door when they arrive, and then go straight to their classroom,” said Principal Shirley Kiefer.

Kiefer said that students would not be allowed to congregate in the halls to limit exposure to other students. St. Joseph’s is also changing lunchtimes for students so that there are a limited number of students in the cafeteria at one time and switching from student centers to forward-facing individual desks.

“The adjustments that we will make also include masks, washing our hands and social distancing as much as possible to follow the mandates.”

The school will frequently be sanitizing throughout the day and at the end of the day to prepare for the next morning. Students will also be given more handwashing breaks.

St. Joseph’s administration is already working hard at cleaning the school, sanitizing, and waxing the floors to prepare for the students to return. The official start back date for St. Joseph’s is August 13 and the administration said they are looking forward to it.

“It has been amazing to hear families say their children miss school and that has been a repeated thing we hear,” said Kiefer.

Being a small school is an advantage, said Kiefer. “Knowing our families and knowing our students will make it easier to make the necessary changes from the state department and our Diocese.”

Kiefer said that St. Joseph’s is prepared if students are mandated to continue at-home instruction for fall and that the school has the one-to-one technology with Chromebooks from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“I feel we had very good success in the spring. The ability to revisit some of the skills to make sure our students had what they needed, is a part of what any school does to prepare for the fall.”

St. Joseph is currently taking enrollment and will host an open-house, possibly in early July. For more information on enrolling your child at St. Joseph’s, contact the school at 479-963-2119.