News from Lourdes

Persevering through a Pandemic

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School emphasizes and celebrates all of the ways our faculty, students, and parents show courage, hope, respect, integrity, service, and thankfulness. At the end the 2020-21 school year, we recognize how much our faculty, staff, students, and parents demonstrated each of those in their character over the last 15 months.

In March of 2020, no one knew what was ahead for the world. Without a roadmap and only one day off to plan after Virginia Governor Ralph Northam declared schools closed, Lourdes teachers jumped into providing learning for students remotely and allowing them to maintain their school relationships at a time when quarantine kept them from seeing so many others in their lives. Students who did not have access to an internet-accessible device were loaned one, teachers made supplemental packets of materials, parents brushed up on their long division skills, and staff checked in to make sure everyone was making the best of an unprecedented situation. Classes met virtually both synchronously and asynchronously to proceed through the curriculum for the year. Virtual talent shows and field days were held, and students continued to build on their relationships with each other during informal online recess times. The graduating 8th grade class was celebrated with t-shirts, yard signs, a virtual ceremony, and live car parade to close out the year and say goodbye to their teachers.

Within weeks of the school year ending, the Office of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Richmond signaled that schools would reopen for the 2020-21 as planned. The Lourdes administrative team pulled together teachers and staff to break down every part of what we do and start fresh in a way that would ensure safety for everyone that would return to school. The team knew that masks would be required for everyone who entered the building, as directed by the Diocese, so an abundance of PPE, including masks, clinical gowns, soap, hand sanitizer, and botanical disinfectant spray was secured in addition to plastic clear desk shields, buckets for storing each student’s personal items, and air purifiers for every classroom and office. Two PODS were ordered to store extra furniture so that desks could be at least three feet apart in each classroom. One of the biggest recommendations was that students should not share supplies of any kind, so the technology team invested in additional Chromebooks and iPads so that each student could have access to their own device when needed. Parents received plans as they were made, and their feedback was taken into account.

Our Lady of Lourdes welcomed 99 new students in the fall! Along with assisting those students in acclimating to their new environment, our returning students learned new ways of monitoring their health, using the daily checklist from the CDC, and practicing social/emotional care with morning mindfulness prompts. School arrival times were staggered to allow for temperature checks, and the popular Running Club split participating students to allow for social distancing. Windows were kept open throughout the school day, and extra recess periods were added to ensure that everyone received as much fresh air as possible. Rather than distributing lunch in-house, Lourdes contracted with Yay Lunch!, who provided non-contact options that were sorted and delivered to homerooms; students would now eat lunch in their class rather than the cafeteria, but each homeroom developed an impromptu movie club as part of their lunchtime. Previously, students moved around the building from class to class, but in 2020-21, teachers were the ones moving, supplies on a cart, between classrooms to limit the potential for germ spreading. The school added additional cleaning of high touch surfaces both during the day and at night, with deeper cleanings performed at the end of each quarter. The aftercare program also utilized smaller cohorts of students to limit the number of contacts that each student met throughout the day.

As the 2020-21 school year began in August, one of the biggest differences from any other year in Lourdes history was that over 60 students chose to participate in classes virtually. These students were connected to their classmates via Google Meet or Zoom as if they were in person. Teachers routinely doubled their planning time to account for projects that would work for both in-person and virtual learners. Over the course of the year, we welcomed back the majority of those students, as their parents became more comfortable with the school’s mitigation measures and the current statistics. Students have been happy and grateful to be together, make new friends, and be safe at school.

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School finished the year with only 15 cases of COVID-19 in our immediate community, approximately 4% of our total population, none of which was caused by internal spread. We feel grateful that those individuals had only mild cases and were able to return to school at the end of their isolation period. We realize that many people are not so lucky, and we mourn those losses.

We don’t yet know exactly what the 2021-22 school year will look like at Our Lady of Lourdes School, but we know that our faculty and students are capable of adapting and adjusting to their environment with an innovative spirit, perseverance, kindness, and aplomb. We look forward to the day that we can once again have parent volunteers during the school day, class trips off of school grounds, heavily attended events, and a full schedule of sports and enrichment activities!

Translate »