St. Paul’s, Cullman Christian leaders discuss back-to-school plans

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St. Paul’s Lutheran School, pictured here Thursday, July 30, 2020, will welcome students back to class Aug. 19. (Nick Griffin for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – There’s been a lot of talk about the back-to-school plans for Cullman City Schools and Cullman County Schools, but Cullman County is also home to private schools. Representatives from two of those, St. Paul’s Lutheran School and Cullman Christian School, talked to The Tribune this week about what their plans are for the new the school year.

Students at St. Paul’s will be in the classroom beginning Aug. 19.

“Our classes will start Aug. 19, and our school day will be from 8 a.m.-3:15 p.m. each day. At the present time we are not offering online as an option for our students, and we will keep a traditional schedule (as opposed to any hybrid schedule) for our students unless something changes with the state (health) department and we are forced to do something different,” said Principal Annette Creest.

“Reopening has been much more difficult this year due to the constant changes,” she said. “We are also planning for extra things like masks, more cleaning/cleaning supplies, social distancing, changing classroom setup, entry/exit points, planning open house and a variety of other factors.”

Creest noted several changes to the school’s normal protocols because of COVID-19.

“Students and employees will be wearing masks upon arrival and departure each day. Temps will be checked by the staff upon student arrival. Classrooms will be cleaned each day and sanitized on a regular basis,” she said. “We will be wearing masks upon arrival/departure and in particular situations that are the best way to keep students and staff safe.  Our school committee has not met since the new mandate to make adjustments to our guidelines for opening.”

In spite of the challenges due to the pandemic, Creest said, “We are excited about being able to come back to school.  This year has been faced with many challenges and the plan is constantly changing.  We still have some openings for students if parents are interested in smaller classroom settings.  We are doing everything possible to try to keep the students in school.  We are praying for a very productive school year in spite of the obstacles we have already been dealing with.”

As for Cullman Christian School, Headmaster Dr. Josh Swindall said his school is offering traditional as well as distance learning options this year.

“At this time, classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 20, and the length of our school day and a traditional five-day on-campus schedule remains unchanged,” said Swindall. “Cullman Christian School will offer a distance learning option for select students provided by our CCS teachers, but students who return to campus will receive traditional in-person instruction.”

He added, “It is certainly more challenging than in years past. COVID has added multiple layers of added policies, procedures and unknowns. We plan to do our best in taking care of our students, staff and stakeholders while taking things one day at a time and adjusting as needed. An added wrinkle for CCS is that we also transitioned school locations this summer and will be beginning our fall semester in a new building.”

Swindall addressed the use of face masks at CCS, saying, “We plan to follow the recommended health and safety practices regarding masks; however, we don’t expect students to wear masks throughout the entire school day. We are asking students and staff to wear masks at arrival, dismissal, and when appropriate distancing is not feasible. Teachers will also have face shields to utilize in the classroom for instructional purposes.”

In addition, he said, “We will have additional sanitation stations throughout the school building and in classrooms, directional arrows for travel, teaching/training in proper hygiene practices such as hand washing, installation of filtration systems for HVAC, increased cleaning schedules for classrooms and (the) facility, as well as facial covering policy for students and staff.”

The headmaster said enrollment is still open.

“This year will likely be full of ups and downs, knowns and unknowns; however, if we trust in the Lord and do our very best to educate, serve and protect children then I am confident we will have a wonderful school year,” he said.

To read about St. Bernard Preparatory School’s plans, visit www.cullmantribune.com/2020/07/29/st-bernard-prep-issues-instructions-for-return-to-class.

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Heather Mann

heather@cullmantribune.com