Bringing students back to school: how Sacred Heart Academy makes full in-person learning work

Posted at 5:14 AM, Oct 02, 2020

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The classrooms at Sacred Heart Academy on Main Street in Buffalo look a little different this year.

"All the desks are six feet apart and we all wear our masks," said Emma Flatau, junior at Sacred Heart Academy. "The teachers are in the front wearing masks."

"We're all social distanced, and we wear our masks, there's even plexiglass in some classes," said Lauren Wegman, senior at Sacred Heart Academy.

But the changes have been embraced by students and staff, eager to get back to school, after going fully-remote last spring during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It was hard to get used to at first but now it's kind of like a routine," Flatau said. "It's nice that I can at least see my friends and we can sit at a desk near each other and still talk."

Every day parents fill out a health survey for students, then, they're temperature checked at the door, and safety precautions are in place in the halls.

"We've covered all high-touch surfaces with a sano-wrap," said Jennifer Demert, Head of School at Sacred Heart Academy. "It self-sanitizes for three months, so it cut down on cleaning that had to happen."

"There's arrows pointing where to go, each staircase is either up or down," Wegman said. "There's little dots showing where you can stand that are six feet apart if you're waiting outside a class."

Every afternoon, sprayers disinfect each classroom.

"Those are state of the art and electrostatic," Demert said. "So it just takes a minute or two to sanitize each classroom, which happens every single day."

Demert understands Sacred Heart had somewhat of an advantage when it came to allowing in-person learning.

"There are some significant challenges that public school districts had that we did not, first of all we are one building as opposed to a full district," Demert said. "And we have a beautiful big building where we weren't overfilling the building to start."

There are 440 girls attending Sacred Heart.

Only about 25 of them are learning remotely, zooming into the same classes their peers are in.

Even with all the precautions, Demert says she and the girls know it takes a village to make in-person learning work.

"The girls have been incredibly compliant," Demert said. "They understand the privilege they have being in school every day with their friends. And they are stepping up to make sure that can continue to the best of our ability in fall and into the winter."

"I was really worried I wouldn't be able to see some of my classmates for the last year of high school," Wegman said. "So being able to see them even if it is just for a couple months, I'm very thankful for that."

There is a plan of course for if things have to change.

The teachers and students are prepared to go fully-remote if they need to.

But for now, they're hoping the precautions they're taking carry them well into the school year.