The reopening of schools for the 2020-2021 school year was filled with questions from all sectors involved: families, students, faculty and staff. The pressure and uncertainty were brought about by Covid-19 and as the days of summer came to an end, families relied on school administrators to determine the safety of the school community in order for them to come back. Following guidelines from the Diocese of Orlando, CDC, and the State of Florida, Sacred Heart Catholic School (SHCS) reopened on August 27, 2020.
It was a long six months of quarantine for everyone. However, school principal Mrs. Shelley Niswonger and school manager Mrs. Lisa Buck worked tirelessly during the summer to ensure support, protection, and tools for school reopening.
Sacred Heart faculty and staff’s work to provide a safe reopening was as important as the groundwork begun last summer. According to Mrs. Nice, as Mrs. Niswonger is fondly called by the SHCS community, “the staff has been preparing for a long time.” She added, “In fact, preparations started back in April once digital learning began.” Teachers learned a new style of teaching and got creative with keeping students engaged online and in the classroom. They developed plans that would ensure safety and prevent anyone from contracting the virus. Mrs. Nice believes her staff has performed wonderfully and everyone has taken the proper precautions to protect against Covid-19. The school is running safely and smoothly since its reopening.
While school is off to a great start, Mrs. Nice reflected on what she would do differently, knowing what she knows now. One thing she wished she had done was purchase more plexiglass to keep students safely distanced, as well as purchasing more Chromebooks for the students attending in-person.
In closing, Mrs. Nice could not be happier with how the Sacred Heart School community has pulled together during these challenging times and made the best of a difficult situation. She also mentioned that early and clear communication of new Covid-19 policies and procedures with parents and families helped gain understanding and trust regarding school reopening plans. Together, Sacred Heart administrators, faculty, staff, students, and families showed and shared their faith in the goodness and courage of one another and their unfailing hope in God.
Article written by Paige K., an eighth grade student at Sacred Heart Catholic School, New Smyrna Beach.
October 5, 2020