DuBOIS — Approximately 80 percent of DuBois Central Catholic parents plan to send their children back to school, according to DCC President Gretchen Caruso.
“They really wanted to know what our plan was and how we are going to do our best to try to keep kids safe,” said Caruso. “One thing I’ve learned in this whole process is there’s no such thing as no risk. You are trying to create the lowest risk possible. And that’s exactly what we’ve done. So the majority of parents want their kids back in school.”
DCC is providing online instruction for those parents who choose not to send their children back to school.
The biggest area of concern for parents are masks, said Caruso.
“That is such a divided subject,” she said.
Other questions are if the school is going to properly social distance students and stagger dismissal and bell schedules. The answer is yes, said Caruso.
Caruso said students will have to wear a mask during learning, and in that case, there will be breaks throughout the day. Students will not have to wear masks while outdoors.
She noted that DCC is also in the process of building an outdoor classroom that she is hoping will be ready by the beginning of the school year.
Another concern is how will the school keep students following one-way patterns.
“Well, the answer is you can instruct, you can guide,” she said. “You can keep as few a kids in the hallway as possible, but at the end of the day, they’re kids. And I can’t promise you that. We’re all human. So we’re going to do the best we can, but when kids are mobile, they’re always wearing a mask.”
A cleaning company conducted a walk-through of the school and provided a list of recommendations to provide a clean and safe environment as well, said Caruso.
“And that really helped us because we’re not experts on cleaning. So we’re able to create a plan that we know is really the best for our students,” she said.
School officials have added some new entry points to start the school day this year.
“Students will enter the building and go immediately to their homeroom classroom. They cannot stop anywhere. They will go directly to their homeroom teacher, who will greet them at the door. They will take a temperature check and they will go through the basic symptoms.”
If a student has a temperature or any symptoms without a temperature, they will be sent to a holding area in the auxiliary gym, where the school nurse will be.
“She will then begin the process over again. It will be with an ear thermometer, which does give a much more accurate reading. And she will go through the symptoms again. She’s the final determination. At that point, she will determine what protocol to follow.”
DCC is expected to have approximately 480 students in pre-school through 12th grade when the new school year starts on Aug. 24. The majority of their students are from the DuBois area, but students from Brockway, Brookville, Clearfield, Punxsutawney, Moshannon Valley, St. Marys and Clarion also attend. The school employs approximately 45 teachers.
Caruso said the entire pandemic situation is tough, but she is a faithful person.
“I really believe in the end, that this is going to see itself through,” she said. “And I just want the kids to be back happy and healthy. I want that more than anything because our school is a really good, positive place. And I feel like the mental health concerns I have for this distancing and the isolation that some of these kids have felt is not good.”