September 16, 2020
Just six days of classes into the new school year, St. Joe’s Prep has temporarily shifted to all-remote learning after two students tested positive for the coronavirus.
Classes at the all-boys private Catholic school will be held entirely online until at least Thursday, Sept. 24. Additionally, all extracurricular activities, including sports, are halted through next Thursday, the school announced.
Contract tracing is being done and students who came into contact with the infected individuals will be notified by the Philadelphia Department of Health, according to the school's student newspaper, the Hawkeye.
"The Philadelphia Department of Public Health was notified by Saint Joe's Prep of two COVID-19 cases," said Matt Rankin, a spokesperson for the city's health department. "St. Joe's voluntarily suspended all in-person learning until September 24th. The two students, their immediate classmates, and teachers are currently quarantining. Through our contact tracing program we believe that these cases became infected separately. Because of the abundance of caution taken by the school, we hope any potential for an outbreak has been mitigated."
The school had instituted a hybrid learning model for the fall semester and split students into two groups – Gray and Crimson – based upon where they lived. St. Joe's Prep's students reside in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
Students had been split up into the two sections in order to promote social distancing in classrooms and all other areas of the school. The average class size has been cut in half as a result of the measure.
The Gray Group attends in-person classes on Thursdays and Fridays, while the Crimson Group reports to campus on Mondays and Tuesdays. All students participate in online learning on Wednesdays.
Students and parents had been given the choice to opt for all-remote learning this fall before classes began.
Parents have been asked to monitor students for COVID-19 symptoms before each school day. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 degrees or other virus symptoms are not be allowed to come to school. Students can only return with medical clearance from a doctor or a negative COVID-19 test.
When students have attended in-person classes, face masks have been required indoors at all times. Social distancing has been mandated at all times throughout the school day.
Students have been encouraged to limit trips to lockers and wash their hands frequently. Sanitation stations have been installed and the school's staff is performing enhanced disinfection of high-touch surfaces.
The school has instituted staggered arrival and departure times for students from various locations on campus. Class periods have been reduced to four per day in order to minimize travel across campus as much as possible. Ventilation has been improved and outdoor air circulation has been increased by keeping windows and doors open as much as possible.
Anyone who flouts the school’s health and safety guidelines has been threatened with a ban from participating in on-campus instruction.