St. Charles Preparatory School, 2010 E. Broad St. in Bexley, has announced it plans to have students return for in-person classes for the 2020-21 school year that begins Aug. 31.
Principal James Lower said the school would utilize spaces where classes are not held traditionally to ensure students and teachers maintain at least 6 feet of distance between them, in keeping with public health guidelines to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
After Gov. Mike DeWine ordered a statewide stay-at-home order in mid-March, St. Charles administrators prepared a calendar of remote sessions to keep students engaged. They began work in May to evaluate how to have students safely return in the fall, Lower said.
"We did an audit of our facility," he said. "We're blessed to have these sites that can be used for alternative spaces."
Lower said the school has 570 students enrolled for the upcoming year, all of whom can safely be in buildings adhering to state and Columbus Diocesan health protocols, and can safely accept up to 600 students for safe in-person learning starting the firtst day of school, Aug. 31.
The bulk of the school's enrollment, from highest percentage to lowest, comes from Westerville, Dublin, Upper Arlington, Bexley and a tie among Blacklick, Hilliard, New Albany and Powell.
St. Charles intends to use its west campus, just west of the main campus near the intersection of Nelson Road and East Long Street, to conduct freshman classes, Lower said.
"We were able to take an auxiliary gymnasium and also a robotics room where our robotics team competes and convert those into learning spaces," he said.
Sophomores will report to classes in the school's multipurpose room, Cavello Center, library, music room and theater. Seats have been removed from the theater to accommodate desks and other classroom equipment, Lower said.
"All of these spaces are following the different protocols of 6-foot spacing, distance to keep our teachers away from the students, multiple restrooms, places where students can wash and sanitize their hands," he said. "There is also a separation area, (so) if someone should become ill you're able to separate them from the rest of the population."
Juniors and seniors will be assigned to classrooms in the main building, with desks positioned to accommodate distancing, and cleaning taking place throughout the day, Lower said.
"Our junior and senior class will have more of a traditional experience in that they will be going from class to class in our rooms," he said. "The other critical part is the technology support."
Teachers will be provided with devices allowing them to communicate with each other throughout the various facilities, and they will enable students who opt to participate in remote learning to participate in classes taking place in physical spaces, Lower said.
St. Charles administrators and faculty will monitor state and local health advisories that could prevent students from attending classes in person, he said.
"We understand there may be a period of time where we may have to do some remote learning," he said.
St. Charles also is assessing if and when athletics can resume, Lower said.
"We're being very cautious about that," he said. "Our kids are exercising and working out and maintaining good safety protocols, but we have not done any scrimmages or competitive games against other schools."
St. Charles is taking a phased approach to the Aug. 31 start date set by the Catholic Diocese of Columbus, with seniors reporting first and each grade level starting the school year on subsequent days, Lower said.
"The senior class will come in on the 31st so they'll understand their schedules, and then the juniors and then the sophomores and freshmen," he said.
For more information, go to stcharlesprep.org.