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Is there a way forward?

(Updated July 27, 2020)

The Coronavirus pandemic has thrown education into chaos. Many schools have admitted that their transition to remote learning was a failure. Some schools are still not sure if they will be open in the fall, or if they know what education might look like in terms of scheduling to accommodate “social distancing.” Others, including major universities, have already announced they will only be providing remote learning or limiting the number of students they allow on campus. The Philadelphia school district has just announced students will only be in school two days each week. The other three will be virtual instruction at home.

Complicating the situation even further is the fear driven by news and social media, exacerbating concern over the uncertainty of the future path of the virus.

Is there a way forward? YES!

The Regina Academies were made for a time like this. Our four schools did an amazing job of making a rapid transition from classroom to online instruction and we could do it again if forced to. However, at its best technology will never be an adequate substitute for the loss of human interaction that happens daily in a classical school. It is important for children to be back with their peers and resume their daily routine as soon as possible.

For the sake of our children and following the example of successful reopening in other countries, the Regina Academies are committed to having our schools open in the fall for business as usual. Children represent a very small percentage of Covid-19 cases and appear to not transmit the virus to others very effectively (see statistics below).

Learning in Classical Schools

The Regina Academies are classical schools, and in classical schools students learn through a dialog between teacher and students. As Catholic classical schools, we honor and attempt to imitate the Logos – the Word Made Flesh. Through a relationship with the incarnate Lord, we come to know the glory of the Father and are offered the opportunity to grow in grace and truth.

In fact, the Incarnation is the model and foundation of our curriculum. It is not only WHY we teach and WHAT we teach – it is HOW we teach. Catholic classical schools teach as Jesus taught:  cor ad cor loquitur, or heart speaking to the heart.  Teachers don’t just lecture students. Students learn in dialog, by example, and through a relationship of trust and respect with their teacher and their peers. This is one of the factors that make our schools so effective academically and such joyful places for children to learn.

Our Catholic community is the heart of the Regina Academies and the last several months of forced separation from that community has been painful for our teachers and students. Technology has been an essential but poor substitute for the personal interaction that is HOW we teach in our schools.

Children and Covid-19

Equal to our desire to have everyone back in school is our commitment that everyone in our school community remain healthy. While the Coronavirus numbers have never reached the level projected by the early models, the tragic loss of life has devastated many families.  Prudence dictates a reasonable degree of caution in reopening our schools and we will take all necessary precautions to ensure a safe environment for our students, faculty, and staff.

While the Covid-19 pandemic remains a threat, researchers have been working to identify how the virus spreads and who is most vulnerable. The reality with regard to children is not one you are likely to hear on the evening news. Research shows that children under 12 represent a very small percentage of cases. In fact, children make up about 22 percent of the US population, and represent only 2 percent of the Covid-19 cases.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has made it clear that “all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

Regarding Covid-19 transmission and children, the AAP has reviewed all available research from countries where schools have already reopened and presents the following examples:

  • A 9-year-old boy in France with the virus exposed 80 classmates, but none of them contracted the virus.
  • In Australia, nine students and nine staff members infected with the virus had close contact with 735 students and 128 staff members. Only two additional people were infected.
  • In a hospital in China, 65 of 68 children with Covid-19 were likely infected by adults in their households, not the other way around.

A May 7 article in the journal Nature questions how effectively children are able to transmit the virus to others. Evidence suggests they are not, however more recent research from South Korea suggests that this may only be true for younger children up to nine years old. It is important to note that the South Korean researchers acknowledge the limitations of their study, and their study has not changed the opinion of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine whose recently published study recommends school reopen. (See the quote of Dr. Caitlin Rivers to the New York Times at Parents.com)

Guidelines for Safely Reopening our Schools

Many schools are publishing their guidelines to show parents how they intend to keep children safe. Some are many pages long. Often, however, a series of revisions have to follow these carefully crafted guidelines because of the constantly evolving body of evidence and new recommendations coming from state, federal, and national health entities.

The Regina Academies has also drafted guidelines, but we have decided to not share them until closer to the beginning of school. Instead, we are providing these general informational points for families:

  • School will be open full-time in our school buildings with personal instruction. Modifications may be considered in individual cases and by special request. Parents should express questions or concerns to their head of school.
  • Our small class size allows us to maintain a physical distance of 6 feet between students, therefore face coverings will not be required except in rare situations.
  • Students should have a mask with them should the need arise for one.
  • We realize the use of face coverings is a sensitive issue. Each school will honor a parent’s request for their child to wear a face covering during the school day, however students may be required to remove face masks during recitations or discussions.
  • We will continue best practices for sanitization and cleanliness – hand hygiene and disinfecting surfaces regularly throughout and at the end of the day. Each school is purchasing an electrostatic cleaning device to more effectively sanitize surfaces and shared equipment.
  • Parents and staff should screen for symptoms at home and stay home if ill.
  • Students who develop signs of any illness will be removed from the classroom and parents notified to pick up their child promptly.

As a Catholic community, our concern for everyone’s safety is more than physical. Our concern for children is that they feel safe and secure physically, emotionally, and spiritually in their homes and in school. Children have the least to gain from lockdowns and the most to lose. They should not be expected to live in fear, and the best way for them to not be fearful and remain positive is to rejoin their peers and re-establish routine.

We look forward to welcoming all of our children back into our schools in the fall. Be assured we will do all that is possible to ensure everyone’s health and safety, but like all things, we ultimately place our trust in God. This is an excellent opportunity for all of us to model for our children trust in God’s protection and providence, as well as the virtue of prudence in decisions we make personally for our family’s health and safety.