BY LAURA CASEY
COVID-19 has affected many people around the world. However, it hits a little closer to home when addressing its impact on local students, teachers and administrators.
On Monday, Thomas More Prep-Marian started their first day of classes for both high school and junior high. This year proves to be significantly different when compared to previous kickoffs.
COVID-19 has changed the way that the administration and faculty spent their summer. Over the past couple of months, schools in the area have been debating if they should open their doors or move their courses online due to the virus.
Their primary focus at TMP-Marian has been on how to protect student health, provide education and conduct basics like providing lunch to students. Another problem for administration is student movement between classes and finding safe ways for students to communicate and socialize before and after school. What was once easy and routine has now become challenging and thought-provoking for Chad Meitner, principal of TMP-Marian.
Meitner said changes in protocols have been the biggest adjustment.
“[We have been] requiring masks for everybody in the building, spacing the desks six feet apart, and also doing cleaning and disinfecting hourly between classes,” Meitner said. “Today [Monday], students tried out the new safety measures. The first walkthrough worked out well.”
TMP-Marian is now using specific cleaning protocols during school hours.
“A rotation of students will use disinfecting wipes to clean classroom workspaces at the end of the class,” Meitner said. “This will also be a good reminder for students to use hand sanitizer and/or wash their hands.”
Meitner and TMP-Marian are using technology to help them with preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“[We] hope to have plasma air devices installed at TMP-Marian within the next two weeks,” Meitner said.
The devices will be placed in the school’s air handlers and will disable or kill the viruses in the air. Meitner said that research shows that the units are effective and should work for the various size classrooms within the school. Furthermore, the maintenance staff will use electrostatic machines that will spray a type of disinfectant and adhere to all surfaces including desks and chairs. This will be done daily.
Normally, TMP-Marian has an all-school mass in the auditorium on the first Friday of each month. This year, the first all-school mass was held in the gym, where students and staff were able to better socially distance. However, Meitner said further alternations will be made to these services.
“Going forward, we are not going to be able to do all school masses due to space constraints,” he said. “We will have to break masses up into smaller groups.”
Meitner said the school has prepared a backup plan, in the event that the school suffers an outbreak. They can reduce in-class days where half of the student body attends one day and the other half attend the next. They are also prepared to move 100% of the students online if necessary. It is important to note that TMP-Marian is also giving students the option to take their courses 100% online. Presently, four students have elected to go the online route.
How will Thomas More Prep-Marian ensure the safety of faculty and staff going forward? According to Meitner, it comes down to how well faculty and students adhere to the new protocols.
“We have good protocols in place so now it comes down to the human side of things,” Meitner said. “Will students and faculty be able to follow the new protocols faithfully? Will masks be worn diligently, and social distance rules become the new norm? If we adhere to these protocols…I think that TMP-Marian is a place that students and teachers and guests can visit without fear of COVID-19 or other illness.”