Grant helps Holy Trinity reopen schools


JASPER — When students return to Holy Trinity Catholic School this fall, they’ll find a few new pieces of equipment around the halls: contactless thermometers and water bottle filling stations.

The school recently won a grant of $6,200 from the Dubois County Community Foundation to purchase the equipment in preparation for reopening. Dubois County’s public school corporations — Greater Jasper, Northeast Dubois, Southeast Dubois and Southwest Dubois — received similar grants.

“I think all schools are in the same boat here,” said Jon Tempel, principal of Holy Trinity’s east campus, which houses third through eighth grade. “We’re excited to welcome kids back, but we want to do it as safely as possible.”

The contactless thermometers and water bottle stations are part of the safety measures schools are taking to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Like the county’s public schools, Holy Trinity students and staff will return to classrooms Aug. 12, and principals Tempel and Jenna Seng, who leads the central campus that houses preschool through second grade, have been working to figure out what the school year will look like.

For the most part, Holy Trinity will follow the countywide reopening framework the public schools worked together to form. Seng and Tempel plan to follow the same operating stages — green, yellow and red — that are laid out in the plan. In the green stage, in-person classes take place daily with extra safety measures. The yellow stage calls for a mix of in-person instruction and e-learning. At the red stage, school buildings close. The safety measures in place at Holy Trinity will also be similar to those at the public schools, as all Indiana schools follow guidance from the Indiana Department of Education.

“The biggest difference is we are not offering an online virtual academy to start the year,” Seng said.

At Holy Trinity, class sizes are small enough that teachers can space desks according to social distancing guidelines and ensure each desk faces the same direction. There will only be a few classes where arranging the rooms for social distancing may not be possible. In those cases, the school has larger spaces available. Eighth grade biology at the east campus is one of the classes that will need to move to a larger space as 25 of the 36 eighth-graders have signed up to take it.

Other considerations Tempel and Seng have looked at are how to screen students for symptoms and how to approach facial coverings. The contactless thermometers play into the screenings. In the green stage, students will be asked to screen themselves for COVID-19 symptoms before coming to school, but the thermometers will be available should students develop symptoms once they arrive. In the yellow stage, students will undergo a temperature screening when they arrive at school.

Seng and Tempel said they’re still working out how to approach facial coverings. At the east campus, everyone will need to wear a facial covering per a mandate Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday that requires all teachers, staff and students in third grade and above to wear masks inside school buildings. At the central campus, staff have more discretion about whether or not students will wear facial coverings. Regardless of age, all Holy Trinity students will be repeatedly taught habits to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“We plan to teach our students from day one hand washing, using hand sanitizer and how to properly wear the masks,“ Seng said.

In addition to guidelines from the IDOE, Holy Trinity also receives guidelines from the Catholic Schools Office of the Catholic Diocese of Evansville. Those guidelines have been similar to what the IDOE releases, Tempel and Seng said, but also include guidelines for activities that make Catholic schools unique, such as schoolwide masses. As of now, Tempel and Seng plan to hold schoolwide masses. Both Holy Family Catholic Church and Precious Blood Catholic Church are large enough for students to be socially distant during the masses. The east campus holds its masses at Holy Family, and the central campus holds masses at Precious Blood.

As the start of the school year nears, Seng and Tempel are working to answer questions from their staff and students’ families about the upcoming school year.

“I think there’s a lot of mixed feelings,” Seng said. “We’re excited to get back to it, but the unknown is nerve-wracking.”

Tempel noted that every school is in the same boat when it comes to dealing with the unknowns of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help with that, Tempel and Seng plan to make sure to explain their reasoning behind each part of the reopening plan. They’re confident that the students and staff will be able to adjust to the changes.

“We’re all in this together,” Tempel said.

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