Academics, Athletics, COVID-19, Park Forest, Schools, Science

Marian Catholic High School Announces Return to School Plans with Hybrid Model

Sr. Mary Paul McCaughey Leadership at Marian Catholic High School
The Sr. Mary Paul McCaughey Leadership at Marian Catholic High School. (Photo: Kevin Kelly)

Hybrid Learning Model Adopted for Fall 2020

Editor’s note: If you’ve wondered what happened to eNews Park Forest, where I’ve been, and what’s been occupying much of my so-called free time this summer, it’s been working with wonderful colleagues preparing for this, an upcoming school year like no other following a spring semester without precedent. Welcome to the hybrid model: education rethought, reimagined, still focusing on every student, every day at Marian Catholic. We’ve all entered some sort of hybrid living, and mine will still include news for Park Forest and beyond. Everything, everything, is different now.
Gary Kopycinski, Editor & Publisher

Chicago Heights, IL-(ENEWSPF)- The spring semester was unlike any other in Marian Catholic’s storied history. Marian Catholic met the challenges presented by Covid-19, thanks in large part to a second-to-none e-learning program, resilient students, engaged parents, and an extraordinarily dedicated faculty and staff. This fall will see a blend, a hybrid learning model including both e-learning and in-person classes available to all students.

The school’s online education went well. However, members of the school’s leadership team recognize the limitations of e-learning and the importance of face-to-face interaction for the academic, social, and emotional well-being of students. Marian Catholic’s plans for the 2020-2021 school year reflect that philosophy while continuing to meet the personal safety needs of families, faculty, and staff.

Multiple options for the return-to-school were considered, including 100% e-learning and a 100% return to campus. In the end, in partnership with parents and faculty, and in consultation with the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Archdiocese of Chicago, and fellow Dominican schools from across the country, a hybrid model of 50% e-learning and 50% in-person schooling was chosen.

Families can elect to have their students learn entirely from home if they feel safer doing so. Regardless, students will follow the same lesson plans, submit the same assignments, and have the same faculty, whether they are at school or at home.

For those families who choose to follow the hybrid model, they can be assured that a number of safety precautions will be in place when school begins on August 17. “First and foremost,” stated Principal Steve Tortorello, “safety is the most important and number one determining factor in all that we do.”

  • Each day, every student and staff member will be temperature-checked before entering the school or boarding a bus. Those with a temperature at or above 100.4°F will not be allowed to enter the school or board a bus.
  • Parents and families will be asked to assess their students’ health each morning; if a student exhibits any COVID-19 symptoms, s/he must stay home from school (this mandate extends to faculty and staff as well).
  • The on-campus health clinic will have an isolation room for students who develop a fever or any other COVID-19 symptoms throughout the day. Those students who exhibit symptoms will be required to produce a physician’s note stating they do not have COVID-19 and/or a negative COVID-19 test in order to return to campus.
  • Students (and staff) who have been diagnosed with COVID-1 or required by officials to self-quarantine will be required to notify the school and learn (or work) from home for 14 days before they can return to campus.
  • Masks must be worn while in the building, with no exceptions.
  • Students and staff will be required to maintain social distancing of six feet as possible; desks will be spaced appropriately, and hallway traffic will be directed to minimize interaction.
  • Hand sanitizer stations have been set up in every classroom, at each entrance, and in all shared spaces.
  • Every part of the school will be deep-cleaned each night with a fogger; classroom spaces will also be cleaned after each class period.
  • Extracurricular activities will take place following the guidelines of the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) or other appropriate governing bodies and the State of Illinois; students and staff will have their temperatures re-checked before each activity, and all equipment will be thoroughly cleaned at the conclusion of the activity.
  • Parents and families will be asked to conduct business with the school either by phone or email whenever possible. In the unlikely event that they must enter the school, they must have their temperatures checked and wear a mask at all times.

The school day will look markedly different from what the Marian Catholic community has grown accustomed to prior to the pandemic.

Students will be divided into two groups. Each school day, only one group will be on campus; the other will participate in classes via e-learning. The groups will switch so that every student will be in the building every other day.

Classes will proceed throughout the day as normal, except with approximately half of the students in attendance. Teachers will present all lesson plans through their iPad or laptop, with students both in the classroom and at home following along.

Marian Catholic has been 1:1 iPads for six years; since then teachers have been consistently trained on how to incorporate e-learning tools effectively.

All teachers will be provided with headsets, allowing students to hear them clearly and the teacher to hear students at home. Students can break out into physical or virtual spaces for team projects.

All assignments will be submitted digitally.

Mass and other school-wide events will be broadcast to each student’s iPad, whether s/he is at school or at home.

Marian Catholic is able to transition to a hybrid learning model due to investments in technology and faculty training, starting with its 1-to-1 iPad program and the hiring of a Director of Instructional Technology. As Sister Jean Patrice, OP, said, “Really we’re ready for this because Steve had a vision that we would be. Five years ago he started this process and we are really able to do e-learning because of his leadership.”

Teachers have spent long hours revising their lesson plans this summer to successfully deliver the new hybrid model. They are well versed with apps such as Zoom, Google Docs, Google Slides, Notability, Keynote, Classkick, PearDeck, Flipgrid, and more. Teachers also understand the importance of checking in with students throughout the class period with quizzes, chats, screen sharing, and breakout sessions to ensure they are staying engaged and on pace.

Marian Catholic’s hybrid model is subject to change based on future direction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the ISBE, the State of Illinois, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and/or the Archdiocese of Chicago. If for any reason the campus must close, the e-learning schedule developed in the spring will be resumed.

“In the event that we end up on e-learning,” stated Mr. Tortorello, “we are ready on a day-to-day basis to move all kids to being at home continuing with the same classes. We’ll likely migrate to the system used in the spring: class Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, with office hours on Wednesday for students to check-in and work with teachers one-on-one or in small groups for help.”

This unprecedented time has led to many changes in our lives including changes to education practices and how students learn. Marian Catholic stands ready to meet every family’s needs regardless of the methods of instruction.

“Our mission is to take the best ideas and do the best and safest thing possible for our families,” Mr. Tortorello said. “We look forward to seeing our students again here in the building, to welcoming them, even if it’s a different way than the past. Even if it’s a new normal, we’re really excited to see people in the building and to get Marian going again for 2020-21.”

Families interested in learning more about Marian Catholic’s plans for the fall may contact Principal Steve Tortorello at [email protected] and/or 708-755-7565.

Admissions inquiries may be directed to Sean Mele, Director of Admissions at [email protected] and/or 708-756-9782.

This is news from Marian Catholic High School.