Area private schools make plans for reopening: What they’re doing

Like their more numerous public school counterparts, local private school officials are making changes in the day-to-day operations of their schools in Butler and Warren counties to enhance safety as classes resume later this month.

From creating one-way pedestrian traffic hallways for students to canceling group learning and shutting down water fountains, the changes will allow students in schools with different environments.

But while some local public school systems – such as Middletown Schools - are starting the year with remote learning, area private schools will be opening with in-person but modified in-building operations to try and control the coronavirus spread.

“We have done everything we could to prepare to be in school, because our students and families have told us they want to be on site, in person and, quite frankly, so do we,” said Dirk Allen, spokesman for the 600-student Badin High School in Hamilton.

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At Middletown’s Catholic Fenwick High School, school officials are urging parents to review detailed back-to-school plans on its website, a practice mirrored by all other local private and public schools.

Fenwick officials did not respond to requests to comment but the school’s website states “families should do health evaluations of students each day prior to school. This evaluation should include a temperature check as well as evaluation of other Covid-19 related symptoms. It is advised for families to keep a log of their temperature checks for possible tracing needs.”

“Items traveling from the home to the school should be disinfected as frequently as possible,” stated Fenwick officials.

Royalmont Academy is taking similar precautions. The pre-kindergarten through 12th grade Catholic school in Mason enrolls about 140 students and officials there are preparing their students and parents for radically different sort of school year.

“Our plan was sent to all of our parents and staff, we believe we have a safe plan for re-entry to school five days per week,” said Veronica Murphy, head of school for Royalmont.

“We will spend the first few days of school walking students through safety procedures such how to walk in the hallways on the right side leaving space, proper wearing of masks, extra times for washing of hands and more.”

Similar safety practices will be a big part of the Mother Teresa Catholic Elementary School’s classes on its Butler County Liberty Township campus but the bigger challenge may be reversing a tradition of bonding – and group prayers - to better improve safety.

“This is a tremendous paradigm shift for our community. We are challenged with thinking of ways to keep our students, faculty, and volunteers separated rather than bringing them together,” said Principal Aideen Briggs, whose school enrolls about 560 students.

“Integral to the spirit of the school is gathering daily as a student body for morning prayer,” said Briggs, with students instead going directly to their classrooms for hand washing and confirming at-home temperature checks were done.

Morning prayer will be conducted via the school’s public address system, she said.

Chuck Hall, principal of Marshall High School in Middletown, said the “unprecedented times” of the pandemic are changing some parts of the private career tech school but the mission of the high school, which will enroll about 350 students by October, remains.

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“Our school will be open daily for those students and families who need that as an option ,” said Hall.

“We know our students value one-on-one connection and that will be no different, even in the age of COVID-19,” he said.

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