Central Catholic Begins Hybrid Learning

Central Catholic Begins Hybrid Learning

On Tuesday, January 26, Central Catholic welcomed back students to campus at 25% capacity for hybrid learning. This is the first time students have attended regular in-person classes since transitioning to Digital Learning in March of last year.

Students have been thrilled to return to school. “I really loved being back on campus,” says junior, Claire Krebs. “My favorite part was being able to interact with all of my teachers in a more meaningful way.” Many students have already noticed the benefits of in-person learning. Senior Luke Horne shares, “I was able to connect with teachers in person much better than when I was online. As soon as I stepped into the classroom, I felt more motivated and engaged.”

Central Catholic has been preparing and laying the groundwork for this transition to hybrid learning since early this past summer. Principal Danyelle Ramsey, who has been at the forefront of these efforts, explains, “From the day we left the school, until the day we brought students back in, we have been doing the work to plan, prepare, and advance so that we could be ready the moment we were able to have our students back. We knew how important this was for the mission of our school and our work as educators.”

While students remained fully online during the first semester, they were offered many opportunities for in-person engagement on campus. Under guidance from the Oregon Department of Education (ODE), students had been participating in in-person activities on campus, such as service projects, clubs, and sports practices on a regular basis. Yet due to COVID restrictions and metrics, Central Catholic was only able to offer these opportunities to a limited number of students each week.

These limited in-person experiences were vital to students’ well-being, as many have felt the impact of long-term virtual learning. Central Catholic counselors have been actively supporting students throughout virtual learning, and have seen the negative impacts on students’ health. Counselor Melissa Stupfel explains, “As we know in the counseling department and across the country, mental health concerns are increasing significantly across the board, and we’ve seen it here.” Having students on campus allows for more in-person support for students who need it. “It’s so important for us to have better access to our students, and for our teachers to have better access to students,” Stupfel says.

Understanding the importance of in-person learning for students, Central Catholic administration remained proactive and continued to monitor metrics.

In late December, after Governor Kate Brown announced new guidelines for returning to school, Central Catholic’s administration began updating the return to school blueprint it had laid out earlier in the fall. Under ODE’s updated Ready Schools, Safe Learners guidance, Central Catholic submitted its plan to the Archdiocese in order to provide on-site and/or hybrid instruction. This plan, which details its operational blueprint for reentry, was also approved by the Department of Catholic Schools, Central Catholic’s Board of Directors, and the Multnomah County Health Department.

With the metrics set forth by ODE, Multnomah county is in the orange advisory phase for in-person learning. This allows Central Catholic to engage in a modified hybrid format. It will remain in this format until Multmonah county moves to the yellow advisory metric, at which time the school will advance to full hybrid learning.

Central Catholic currently has 25% of its student body, about 200 students, on campus each day. Students are divided into four different groups, and each attends class in person for two consecutive days every other week. Teachers are providing in-person instruction to students who are on campus and continuing to provide virtual instruction to those who have digital learning that day. 

Within the first day of students’ returning to campus, teachers immediately saw the benefits of in-person instruction. John Guthrie, US History teacher, shares, “Everyone seemed really excited to be back and engaged and ready to learn. You can see students are night and day from being online to being back in person.” 

With a quarter of the student body in the building each day, classes will remain much smaller until the school transitions to full hybrid. Despite the small classes, the benefits of in-person instruction are evident for teachers and students alike. “It’s a lot better to see students’ actual reactions, their expressions, and have that in-person interaction,” explains Todd Bowman, who teaches Math. “It will be nice when we’re able to expand that, but not teaching completely through a screen is really awesome,” he adds.

This slow introduction of cohorts allows for a cohesive transition to an eventual full hybrid learning format. It also gives students time to practice and be completely familiar with the on-campus learning protocols, which ensures a safe environment for everyone. These detailed safety protocols include designated entrances for students, temperature and wellness checks upon entry, traffic patterns throughout the building, proper mask-wearing and physical distancing enforcement, hygiene and cleaning protocols, and providing large, open-aired spaces for eating lunch. These protocols are being strictly adhered to by the school community.

Although there are many new protocols and procedures, students have successfully been complying with all safety measures. Anthony Gray, who works with our RAMS Program in adaptive PE and teaches Sports Medicine, notes, “I am really impressed with the maturity and responsibility of the students. I know administration and staff have been taking all precautions, but the students are so grateful to be here in the building that they’re willingly doing everything we’re asking them to do.”

In addition to these protocols, Central Catholic has invested in building maintenance and materials to improve safety and hygiene within the school. This summer and fall, the facilities team conducted a full audit of the building’s HVAC systems and increased the circulation of outdoor air within the building as much as possible. They upgraded the ventilation system by installing COVID-rated filters, which are changed four times a year—exceeding the recommended rotation for filtration based on that filter type.

Mike Pinder, Director of Facilities, has been spearheading all of these updates to the building. “With all the improvements within the building,” he explains, “I feel really confident that our teachers, staff, and students will be well-protected during their time here in the school.”

Central Catholic also has over 80 hand sanitizing stations throughout the building, provides masks for students who forget or damage theirs, has installed no-touch thermometers at all entrances, and retrofitted doors with hygienic door handles. School custodians have increased cleaning of the building, including sanitizing bathrooms after each passing period.

These increased measures have enabled families to feel reassured of the safety of their students. Central Catholic parent and Parent Association President, Michelle Ferroggiaro, shares, “I absolutely believe Central Catholic is well prepared, and they have been planning for the return since summer, continually paying attention to recommendations and going above and beyond to keep students and staff safe and healthy. The amount of work going on behind the scenes by this administration to continue to have a thriving community has been incredible.”

Prior to the January 26 return, all students, faculty, and staff who planned to be on campus for hybrid learning, co-curriculars, or any school activity were required to get tested for COVID-19. Central Catholic partnered with NW Mobile Testing to carry out antigen testing and made it free of cost to the entire community. This testing was hosted on campus on January 23 and 24, with additional testing dates the following weekend for those who had scheduling conflicts. This was a vital step in the return to school plans, as it would identify any asymptomatic individuals that could potentially introduce infection to the school community.

All of these protocols, building improvements, safety materials, measures, and more have enabled the school community to safely return to the building for vital in-person instruction. 

The most critical part of ensuring a safe return to school is the complete compliance and buy-in from all members of the community. Central Catholic has communicated the importance of these measures to every single student, teacher, and staff member. They understand that by strictly adhering to these protocols, they will keep themselves and their community safe, and it will eventually lead to fully-hybrid instruction. 

While most of Central Catholic’s students have opted for in-person instruction, about 150 students have opted to remain fully virtual. Additionally, a handful of teachers and staff will continue teaching virtually, as they have particular health concerns or have family members who are at-risk. The school’s administration has worked with each student, teacher, and family to meet their individual needs. Their goal is to accommodate everyone, while not sacrificing the quality of education and rich experiences offered by the school.

Throughout this entire process, the school administration has been detailed and transparent in their communication with families. Parents have expressed gratitude for the school’s diligence in bringing students back to campus and ensuring a safe environment for all. “We have been very impressed with Central Catholic's preparation to have students return to school safely and provide measures to protect the staff,” shares current parents, Andrea and Derek Lamprecht. “The communication from the administration has allowed our family to feel confident in the preparation that has been taking place for months to open up the building to more people when they received the green light to do so.”

Central Catholic’s diligent work in planning and preparing has been instrumental in making this transition to modified hybrid possible. Additionally, the community's hard work, many long conversations, and total compliance in protocols have made this the first of many successful weeks of hybrid learning. 

Amidst the numerous shifts that have and will continue to take place, one thing remains consistent: Central Catholic is committed to providing robust educational opportunities in an inclusive, supportive, and safe environment.

To view Central Catholic’s complete Blended Learning Protocols and Operational Blueprint, click here.

If you have additional questions or would like more information, please email: info@centralcatholichigh.org.