School Reopening

St. Catherine's Montessori will begin the 2020-2021 school year on August 12, beginning with in-person instruction for Infant Community and Primary children. Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Adolescent Community and High School students will begin the year with Distance Learning and online student orientations on August 18 and 19. Distance learning for these older children will continue through September 8, 2020 at which time in-person learning will begin. 
The health and safety of this community is our number one priority, and we have put in place procedures and protocols designed to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread. We continue to monitor the situation in Houston and will keep you informed and provide additional resources as we navigate this ever-evolving situation together. We are excited to begin the school year, and look forward to welcoming students back to campus!



Notices and Emails

Sent to all parents, faculty and staff
Dear St. Catherine’s Community,
This communication is to provide you with our Reopening Plan for the 2020-2021 school year. With the support of the Board of Directors and Archdiocese of Galveston/Houston we are opening as originally planned with Infant Community and Primary on August 12. The Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Adolescent Community and High School will begin the year with Distance Learning with online student orientations on August 18 and 19. Distance learning will continue through September 8, 2020 at which time in-person learning will begin.
Thank you for your prayers, patience and understanding as we have filtered through the extensive resources, data and guidance to formulate our reopening plans. We appreciate your input as we strive to make the best possible decision for our community.
We are especially grateful to those in our community who are in the medical field and who have shared advice and expertise to guide our decision-making process. An ongoing Medical Advisory Team is being formed to advise actions and field questions going forward.
These last months have been difficult for all of us and I know there have been questions, worries, and prayers about the right thing to do for our children. There is no one right answer. What I do know is that we are all making the best decision we can with the information we have and that as a community we are living Together Responsibly. Attached is our comprehensive Reopening Plan, and below are the phasing in dates for the beginning of the school year.
St. Catherine’s will begin the 2020-2021 school year by phasing in the different levels.
August 10
  • Online Parent Orientation for Infant Community and Primary

August 11
  • Infant Community and Primary Looking Day by appointment

August 12 & 13
  • Returning Infant Community children – 8:30 – 11:20 a.m.
  • Returning Primary children – 8:30 – 11:30 a.m.

August 14
  • Returning Primary children – Regular schedule for AM & PM.  Aftercare program closed.

August 17
  • Online Parent Orientations for Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Adolescent Community & High School
  • Begin phasing in NEW Infant Community and Primary children
  • Primary aftercare open for enrolled Primary PM children           

August 18 & 19
  • Half day online orientation for Distance Learning for Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Adolescent Community & High School 8:00 a.m.  – 12:00 p.m.

August 20
  • All-day Distance Learning begins for Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Adolescent Community & High School – 8:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. (M – Th) and 8:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. (F)
Susan Tracy                                                Chris Jordan
Head of School                                             Board President   
Sent to all parents, faculty and staff
Dear St. Catherine’s Community, 
This communication provides no new information, but rather offers clarification in hopes of minimizing any undue stress. At St. Catherine’s we are committed to delivering our mission through an educational experience founded on community interaction and rooted in on-campus programming, while also supporting those who are unable to be on campus due to illness or significant health risks.
To that end, we offered a survey to gather information about how many felt there would be a significant health risk to them or their family when school opened. The survey was for the purpose of giving us numbers for planning purposes and never intended to be a request for a rushed decision. Since that time the state of health in Houston and the HISD's current plans have amplified uncertainties.
As communicated by the Superintendent of Catholic Schools this morning and with St. Catherine’s Board support, we remain hopeful to begin the school year on August 12 with on-campus instruction. The Archdiocese is waiting for an expected announcement this week by Judge Hidalgo to determine if there will be local health orders that we are required to follow.  We will let you know as soon as we know new information.

For us to plan effectively, it is important for us to know if families have health considerations that prevent them from feeling safe sending their children to attend school in person when we open. To assist with this planning we ask that each family complete the survey, the deadline for which has been extended to Friday, July 24. Parents may edit their responses until the survey closes next Friday at 5:00 p.m. We recognize that your decision may change as conditions in Houston evolve; we are interested in how you are feeling at this point, and we encourage you to contact us if your decision changes.
Thank you to everyone in this community for your grace as we navigate together through all of these unknowns.
Peace and blessings,
Susan Tracy
Head of School
Sent to all parents, faculty and staff
Dear St. Catherine’s Community,
I hope this message finds your family well and that you have been able to spend joyful family time together this summer.
I am writing today to update you on our planning for the 2020-2021 school year at St. Catherine’s. While we recognize that the COVID-19 numbers in Houston continue to be a concern and uncertainty about the future prevails, our goal remains to provide an educational environment that keeps the children at St. Catherine’s as safe and healthy as possible. Referencing the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Texas Education Agency guidelines, St. Catherine’s is following the recommendations to bring children back to school in August. Our staff has worked tirelessly this summer to develop procedures to mitigate risks, to modify the environment to function in the safest possible way, and to be prepared for any eventuality.
At St. Catherine’s we see the tremendous value of learning in community.  We heard from you last winter about why you came to St. Catherine’s and what you value about this community.  The three main narrative principles synthesized from your comments are that at St. Catherine’s: 
  • We support the development of the whole person in preparation for life.
  • We foster a culture of love and recognition of each person’s human dignity.
  • We encourage each person’s natural desire to make a contribution to the world.
This is why we are here.  This is what is learned best in community.  Our children need to be together to learn how to live in harmony with others, to problem-solve collaboratively, to be inspired and to inspire, to show compassion and kindness to others, and to learn their role as a responsible and contributing community member.  We will offer in-person classes this school year until mandated to do otherwise.
While we know that children construct their personalities best by working within the interdependency of a social organization such as their class community, we recognize that there are a few who have health considerations that prevent them from feeling safe to return in August.  We will make every attempt to help those in this situation stay connected to their classmates and the work of the class until they are able to be part of the community in person.  Exactly what this looks like for each individual will be determined by the guide and the family prior to the start of school.  If you are determining that your child needs to stay at home at the start of school, we ask that you commit to Remote Choice from August 12 until at least October 2, 2020.  This will give the class, and your child, consistency, and predictability while they learn the new routines for this year.  To protect each cohort, students enrolled in Remote Choice will not be allowed on campus.  Once enrolled, we will revisit each family’s particular situation one (1) week prior to October 2 to determine if they will continue with Remote Choice for another 7-week period.  Knowing the number of families needing this option will assist our guides in planning for the upcoming school year.  By Friday, July 17 at 5:00 p.m., please click here to answer two (2) short questions to declare whether your family will select Remote Choice or on-campus learning for the beginning of this school year. 
Should there be a need to learn from home for any length of time, St. Catherine’s has redesigned Distance Learning plans to more seamlessly be aligned to the sequence of the day and activities the children experience when at school.  Materials are being prepared this summer for students so they can have familiar tools to work with at home.  Guides will be offering an opportunity for the whole class to come together, frequent small group lessons, weekly check-ins and conferencing, ways for students to share work, synchronous and asynchronous feedback and accountability, and office hours.  This plan will allow us to be flexible enough to respond to changing circumstances and still follow a familiar routine. 
St. Catherine’s will follow updated CDC and TEA guidelines for re-entering school, and details of the most recent versions will be included in a handbook distributed prior to school starting.  Students will remain in the cohort of their own class with their guide and assistant. Aftercare will be available for Primary PM and Elementary students only in their own classroom with the class assistant for students enrolled in the After School Program. The outdoors are being prepared for each class to have a dedicated space for outdoor work and eating.  Classes will also have daily access to the larger outdoor spaces on a rotational basis.  
Face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. Face coverings can be either masks or face shields. All employees will be required to wear face coverings during arrival and dismissal and when inside the building. Faculty will wear face shields during presentations that require clear articulation and visibility of the mouth.
High School, Adolescent and Elementary students will be required to wear a face-covering during arrival and dismissal and when inside the building. Primary children will be required to wear a face-covering during arrival and dismissal.  Infant Community children will not be required to wear a face covering. We believe that reopening in August with these procedures in place is an important step in living responsibly with this virus. Please remember to complete the Remote Choice survey by this Friday at 5:00 p.m.
Susan Tracy
Head of School
Sent to all parents, faculty and staff
Dear St. Catherine’s Community,
“Everything has suddenly changed. What we previously took for granted seems to be uncertain: the way we relate with others at work, how we manage our emotions, study, recreation, prayer, even the possibility of attending Mass…”   -- Pope Francis
In this unprecedented and continually changing time, we recognize there are many questions on everyone’s mind. What will school look like next year? Will we be back together in person in August? What safety protocols will be in place? What will remote learning look like, if we have to go to that for any period of time? Thank you to all who responded to our survey giving us information about your needs, concerns and perspectives; we appreciate hearing from you as we continue our preparations to open in the fall.
St. Catherine’s remains committed to dynamic planning and preparation for a safe return for the 2020-2021 school year. Our goal is to have all students on campus in August in the safest possible way, if allowed by relevant public health and governmental policies and recommendations. We intend to remain flexible and adaptable, and will communicate plans as they evolve. Here is a communication from the Superintendent of Catholic schools about returning in the fall.
We know that in-person experiences are better for everyone – students, families, faculty and staff. Our environments are designed to support the child’s needs in the process of self-construction through experiential interactions with the environment and community. By re-opening we intend to fulfill the mission of St. Catherine’s Montessori and will do so as safely as possible to minimize risk and keep our community healthy. Here is an NPR article that discusses the positive results of many childcare centers that operated for essential workers all through the lockdown.
We have faith in the belief that it is in human nature to adapt and the Montessori experience gives children an opportunity to learn to adapt to their circumstances. Montessori talked about her work, not as a method of education, but as preparation for life – for adapting to whatever life holds in the future. In the classroom we will introduce the children to any changes or restrictions, not as limitations of freedom, but rather as new ground rules of the environment to keep everyone safe. Students will be guided through the use of grace and courtesy lessons to remember that new procedures are important strategies to protect each other so we can be together as safely as possible.
Task Forces
We have developed task forces to gather information and define protocols and strategies for health and safety, facilities and operations, pedagogy, technology, and community. Our goal is to have our full plan completed by mid-July.
Safety protocol for a confirmed COVID-19 case at school
The policies and procedures to mitigate COVID-related risks at school are built around CDC recommendations; local, state, and federal guidelines; and health protocols of our own community. While our safety precautions of daily temperature screening, daily symptom and exposure screening, minimizing group size by keeping to class cohorts, frequent hand washing, social distancing when possible, and face coverings when appropriate are designed to be preventative measures; in order to ultimately protect the health of our school requires the commitment of all of us in the St. Catherine’s community to practice healthy decision making in our lives outside of school. If someone does test positive for the virus, everyone in that one class would be notified, be quarantined for 14 days, continue lessons remotely, and follow the protocols for returning which are outlined here.
Remote Learning
While our desire is to be together in person as much as possible next year, we may on some occasions be required to be at home. This summer we are preparing for all possibilities. Guides have been collaborating with AMI trainers and other Montessori schools globally to share ideas about what has worked well translating the lessons to a virtual environment. Our guides are also taking many professional development classes this summer in specific content areas, technology, and COVID-19 safety training (required). This summer, in preparation for remote learning, guides will be video-taping lessons, preparing packets of materials, developing on-line schedules, defining time for small group lessons, defining how to manage individual conferencing for student accountability, and incorporating office hour opportunities for parents. With this preparation, if or when the time comes for a need to work from home, both students and guides will be ready and know what to expect. Our Instructional Continuity Plan will be submitted to the Archdiocese by July 15.
We recognize there is a need for aftercare for many families, especially since we will not be having children join together for after school sports or music. This year we will be providing aftercare for Primary PM students, Lower Elementary students and Upper Elementary students in their own classrooms with the class assistant. This allows us to keep each cohort separate all day, minimizing exposure. We will unable to offer aftercare for Adolescent Community or High School.
We know that being together in person is optimal for our social and emotional health. We have considered guidelines to mitigate risk and provide for the health and safety of our children and ask that families recognize their own responsibility for keeping our community safe. Each family will have to make their own benefit/risk assessment about their children coming to school. Our children are already accustomed to exhibiting behavior that shows respect and care for others. They are well suited to adapt to the changes required. Montessori’s philosophy of “Education for Life” is the basis for teaching our children how to live their lives in a changing environment and develop the skills for dealing with life.
More specific plans for next year will be communicated mid-July. Stay safe and healthy!
Susan Tracy
Head of School
Sent to all parents, faculty and staff
Dear St. Catherine’s Community,
I hope you all have been able to shift into summer break!
I know everyone is anxious to hear plans for the start of school. While things still remain uncertain in the world, we have spent a considerable amount of time planning and deliberating about next school year. We have taken into account current CDC and TEA guidelines as we seek to establish our plans for reopening. Updated guidelines are expected from TEA on June 16.  
At St. Catherine’s we recognize the need for social interaction for children and at the same time place the highest importance in mitigating any health risks as we come together. We plan to begin school on Wednesday, August 12, 2020. Our strategy is to perform daily health monitoring and screening procedures, incorporate frequent hand-washing, and to have children interact only with the small group of their own class. By keeping to their own cohort, we can minimize exposure and facilitate effective contact tracing. If there is an exposure, only the cohort would have to isolate and not the whole school.
Health and Safety Protocols
All faculty and staff will sanitize their hands, answer a daily checklist of symptoms, and take their temperature before signing in and entering the building.  Children will have their temperature checked at the car before they get out of their seat belts to verify that it is below 100°F, and parents will verify that the child does not have the following symptoms:
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Diarrhea
Children will wash their hands upon arrival, before and after work choices, before and after eating, before and after going outside, after using the restroom.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Staff will routinely clean, sanitize, and disinfect surfaces and objects that are frequently touched, especially materials.  At the end of each day the environments will be disinfected using an electrostatic spraying device that coats even hard-to-reach places.  St. Catherine’s uses a non-toxic disinfectant that is EPA-approved for use against the virus that causes COVID-19.
There will be no food or snack preparation at school. Children and adults will bring their own lunches, utensils, napkins, place mats, snacks, and water bottles. The water fountains at school have been removed. Children can fill their water bottles in their classrooms with reverse-osmosis filtered water.
All children will arrive to the outside door that goes directly into their classroom. The Primary children will go through the Welcome Center to the courtyard and directly into their class. The Elementary students will go to their outside door and the AC and HS students will go to the double doors between the HS and the gym. Infant Community parents will park in the spaces by the gym and then walk outside to the IC outdoor area. Dismissal times will be staggered.
Outside Time
Regular outside time is encouraged without mixing classes. All classes have the possibility for children to work, garden, and eat outside with their own cohort.
There are currently no trips planned for the school year. We will continue to monitor the situation to assess the possibility for later in the year. If no trips are taken this year, the portion of the fees that would be used for that purpose will be refunded.
These after-school activities will be temporarily suspended until it appears to be safe to mix cohorts. We are exploring options to provide aftercare in each class, where necessary.
Mass will be virtual and live-streamed at a time that can be watched at home.
The guides are preparing a variety of materials that each child can take home to continue working, should there be a need for remote learning. The guides will be engaging with students in small group lessons or following up with lessons they have had. The guides will also be creating a depository of video-taped lessons that families can reference when needed.
Face Coverings
Face coverings are meant to protect other people in case the wearer is unknowingly infected but does not have symptoms. It is not developmentally appropriate for students younger than five years old to wear masks or face coverings. At St. Catherine’s, IC and Primary children will not be wearing masks.
Social Distancing
St. Catherine’s does not expect that young children will distance themselves from other children or adults while at school. All ages learn by engaging with their environment, which includes other people. What we can do is prepare the environment in such a way that encourages spacing when doing independent work.
Parent Meetings
Orientation, conferences, and parent education will be done virtually. Tours will be done virtually and observations are suspended. To maintain health and safety, parents and visitors are restricted from coming on campus. This is an overview of beginning considerations to give you an idea of how we are attempting to keep a balanced approach so that we might stay in school together for the maximum amount of time next year. Information will be updated as necessary. We know that coming together in person is in the best interest of our children and we strive to do that in the healthiest possible way. 
Susan Tracy
Head of School
Reopening  Plan
2020 - 2021
Addenda updated October 30, 2020