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Coronavirus Awareness and School Updates

St. Monica is tracking news and information about the spread
of coronavirus (COVID-19).
Please check this page regularly for school updates

McCardle Minute

 

Dear St. Monica Catholic School Families, 

I don’t know about you all, but much of the past year is a blur for me. Days and weeks went by without appreciable human contact, the sort of contact that creates lasting memories. The whole experience harkens lines from the poet Donald Hall in his book Without:  

             hours days weeks months weeks days hours   
             the year endured without punctuation  

But no longer. Human connection has returned. Hours have punctuation (7:30 Mass, 8:00 carpool line, …); days have question marks (what was I thinking?); weeks have exclamations (look at the great performance those students pulled off!).  

School has settled into a routine schedule that should take us to the end of the year: 

  • Over 80% of the TK-8 students have returned to on-campus instruction.  For example, in TK, all of the students are on campus. TK-8 students are here Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 2:30 for direct instruction.  

  • Over 60% of the students in 9 through 12 have returned to on-campus instruction. They are here in large stable groups (Freshman/Sophomore is one group, Junior/Senior is another) in an alternating two-days-on, two-days-off rotation from 8:40 to 12:15 for direct instruction. Another stable group, called the “25% group” based on the County rule that allowed them to return, is on campus every day for supervised remote instruction.  


The two COVID cases that we reported recently remained an isolated incident. The individuals involved recovered with only minor symptoms. No further cases were reported, and all those ordered into quarantine have tested negative and have returned to campus.  


Compliance with the mask rule remains high, at nearly 100%. Thank you for reminding your students and for making sure they have their masks. The distancing rule is another matter, particularly during recess. By and large, distance is maintained in the classroom, but casual observation of the students on the yard is that adherence to the distancing rule decreases with age. The good news is that they are outside when they are close, and they are wearing masks.  


Local COVID conditions continue to improve.  LA County moved into the least restrictive yellow tier yesterday. There was no post-Easter travel-related surge in cases. For that, we are all truly grateful. The change in tier will not have much of an impact on our day-to-day operations, though there may be some changes in athletics and special events. Stay tuned for details as the County releases the new guidance.  


Planning is underway for a return to school in the fall. The schedule for all grades will look much as it did in the fall of 2019. We anticipate that all students will be on campus, all day, five days a week. One more calendaring meeting between the two schools and with the parish is needed before we release exact dates and the full year calendar, though we are looking at the week of Aug 23 for the first day of school.  


Let me close with a few lines from Morning Prayer for today. They come from the prophet Jeremiah.  

          I will turn their mourning into joy, 
          I will console and gladden them after their sorrows.  
          My people will be filled with my blessings, says the Lord.  

May your days be filled with blessings and your week have an exclamation of joy.  

Peace,
Dr. McCardle

McCardle Minute
 
 
Dear St. Monica Schools Families, 

Students in grades 6 through 12 returned to campus last week, joining the students in TK through 5. As I was working the drop-off line one morning, I wondered “who are these people?” Then it struck me: your children have grown in the year since we last saw each other! Oh my, how they have grown.  

We began the month of March without any students having been on campus for almost an entire year. On March 3 we started inviting students two or three grades at a time, until this past Monday when we had about 210 students in TK through 12 back on campus, attending an outdoor Mass together, spread six feet apart. It was wonderful.  

Campus COVID news: 

 - One piece of very good news: there have been no active COVID cases reported among the students or staff who have come to campus in the past month. Our goal is to keep it that way, and we rely on you and your families to support us in this effort. How well your family adheres to the safety protocols affects us all.

 - Please heed the LA County Department of Public Health’s active discouragement of travel over Easter break.  If you do choose to travel more than 120 miles outside of Los Angeles, please notify us and obey quarantine restrictions on your return.

 - Some strides have been made in our COVID testing. Students in grades 9 through 12 and all school staff are required to be tested weekly, and we have been providing free testing on campus to accommodate. In addition, a large majority of the staff have been or soon will be fully vaccinated.  

 - Both schools will be issuing another invitation to students to return to campus. This week the high school will do a survey to see who will return for on-campus instruction. The week after Easter break the elementary school will survey those who originally chose to keep their students at home to see if they have changed their minds.  

 - There are no immediate plans to change the current schedules, but we will reconsider when we see what conditions are like in the weeks after Easter.  

One piece of non-COVID news:  the girls and boys cross country teams at the high school both won their league championships. Go Mariners!   

As Easter approaches, I would like to invite you to join any of the Triduum services at St. Monica.  Consider participating in these beautiful liturgies of praise, worship, and communion. See https://stmonica.net/triduum for schedules and to register for any of the in-person services.  

Peace, 
Kevin 
Dr. Kevin McCardle, President St. Monica Catholic Schools 

Dear St. Monica Catholic Schools Families,

The school yard has been marked in a six-foot grid. When the Kindergarten class came out for snacks on Wednesday, Ms. Crowley could tell the students to find a piece of blue tape and sit down. There they were, six feet apart. It brought to mind a book by the Irish poet John O’Donohue, aptly titled “To Bless the Space Between Us.”  Responding to O’Donohue’s call, may we all bless the six-foot space between us.

 

As anticipated, this week LA County moved from the purple tier (worst tier for COVID infections, with the strictest set of regulations) to the red tier (second worst tier). Schools are now allowed to return all students in TK-12 to on-campus direct instruction. While we did not invite back any groups of students this past week, next week will be a different matter.

 

  •      Starting Monday, students in grades 9 through 12 will be invited back one grade at a time for half days of   specialized programming and re-orientation. We anticipate 40 to 60 students each day.
  •      Starting Wednesday, students in grades 6 through 8 will be invited back to join the lower grades for half days of direct instruction four days a week. We anticipate about 60 of these students each day. (The students in 6 through 8 will have non-instructional days on Monday and Tuesday as their teachers prepare for a return to the classroom.)
  •      Students in grades TK-5 will continue their Monday through Thursday half-days on campus. There are about 100 of these students each day.


Other aspects of school have also started to show signs of life: outdoor athletic competitions have returned, and performing arts students are preparing the spring show.
It has been great to greet families during morning drop-off: elementary school families entering through California and high school families entering through Washington.  Thank you for pre-registering each morning. The morning drop-off process goes fairly smoothly. Afternoon pickup is another matter.  By 12:20, traffic has backed up along Lincoln, creating unsafe conditions, and that is without having the students in 6 through 12 on campus yet. We are going to try a few changes in the week ahead, so stay tuned for instructions from Dr. Quinly and Mr. Spellman.

 

Finally, a word about travel over Easter break. Following the County Department of Public Health guidelines, travel is strongly discouraged. If your family chooses to travel more than 100 miles outside of Los Angeles, your student will be required to either

  •      quarantine at home (engaging in remote learning) for 10 days,
  •      or after 3 to 5 days of quarantine provide a negative PCR test result.

Please let us know if you plan to travel. 

 

In one of his poems, O’Donohue writes “We seldom notice how each day is a holy place / Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens.”  In a most extraordinary set of circumstances, the eucharist of the ordinary is happening once again at St. Monica Catholic Schools. Thank you for being an integral part of our ordinary.

Peace,

 

Kevin

Dr. Kevin McCardle, President St. Monica Catholic Schools

Updated March 1, 2021

Dear St. Monica Catholic Schools Families,

As I was driving along the 10 toward school yesterday morning, a rainbow appeared, and as the road curved between Bundy and Barrington, the rainbow seemed to touch down on St. Monica. It reminded me of the rainbow that appeared to Noah as a sign of God’s covenant. Once the school day began, like the passengers from Noah’s ark, children tentatively disembarked from cars and crossed into the school yard.

The landscape of the school has changed dramatically in the last week, and more changes are imminent. Here is the rough order, and the rough orders of magnitude, in which students began to arrive back on campus for school.

  • Last Wednesday we welcomed students in TK, K, and 1; on Monday we added 2 and 3; and yesterday we added 4 and 5. The students in TK-5 are receiving direct instruction from their classroom teachers. The on-campus schedule for now is Monday to Thursday, 8:30-12:30. About 75% of the enrolled students have returned to campus, and the other 25% have opted to stay at home. There is an hour of remote instruction for everyone Monday through Thursday afternoon; Friday is entirely remote.
  • Also last week we welcomed a small number of students in grades 9 through 12 for a full day of supervised on-site remote instruction (fewer than a dozen came each day). This week we added about 30 seniors, primarily members of ASB and Campus Ministry. Just as with the students in the lower grades, not all of those we invite to return accept the invitation.
  • Simultaneously, after-school athletic conditioning sees 30 to 80 students in grades 6 through 12 on the yard each day, and still others at fields and courts around town.
One of the biggest challenges so far has to do with maintaining social distancing during recess and breaks on the yard.  It would help if you would work with your children to recognize what six feet looks like when they’re talking to someone. It’s not a natural way to have a conversation, but we need them to adhere to the rule.

Sometime in the next week, perhaps as early as Saturday, Los Angeles County will move from the purple tier (the worst tier COVID-wise, and the most restrictive) to the red tier. At that time, we will be allowed to bring students in 6 through 12 back to campus for direct instruction. We are in the process of surveying parents and planning schedules. The schedules need to be coordinated among all of the grades, and classrooms need to be rearranged. We anticipate announcing details next week.
There are two other topics on which we get a number of questions.
  • Vaccines. The good news is that many, but not all, of our teachers and staff have been able to access a vaccine. Many have had their first dose, and some have had both. We cannot require faculty or staff to be vaccinated. There is not currently a vaccine for children.
  • COVID testing. Our messaging regarding required COVID testing has been inconsistent, and our attempts at implementation of a testing process have not been successful. I apologize. Up until this week, the state mandated weekly COVID testing for the football team; that was the only group for which testing was required by law. More widespread testing was recommended by the state, but not required. Following the state recommendation, our COVID Task Force decided to require widespread screening tests for students in grades 9 through 12, and for all faculty and staff. Our first attempt having an outside vendor come to campus for testing failed. We are trying a new vendor with the football team. Please stay tuned.

It is difficult to describe the joy I have experienced this past week, hearing sounds of student laughter I have not heard in a year.  Thank you for entrusting your children to us.

Peace,
Kevin

Dr. Kevin McCardle

February 13, 2021

 

Dear St. Monica Catholic Schools Community,

 

We are writing to you today with what we hope you will receive as good news regarding our current planning for the safe return of students to campus. The details of the plans are still being worked out, and the details will vary depending on the grade level of the students, but there are a few general guiding principles that we can share. Thank you for your patience and understanding as over the past three months we have monitored and reacted to the regularly changing State and County guidelines. 

 

As you may recall, in early December, after consultation with parents, faculty, staff, and school and parish administration, we submitted a waiver to the County for permission to bring students in TK-2 back to campus.  Four days a week of half-day sessions were proposed. At that time, about half of the families with students in those grades indicated an interest in having their child come to campus.  In late December the State put a hold on waiver approvals because of the surge of COVID cases. In early February we were told that the waiver process was cancelled. In its place the State announced plans for new guidelines for reopening.

 

On Tuesday of this past week, the LA County Department of Public Health clarified the new State guidelines and the County’s planned implementation of them. The new criterion is that when LA County gets to an adjusted daily rate of 25 new cases per 100,000 residents, and stays there for 5 days, students in primary grades will be able to return to campus. A month ago the adjusted case rate was 78; two weeks ago it was 39; this past week it was 31.7. If conditions continue to improve in LA County, we could get to the threshold level in the next week or two. We have begun planning for that eventuality.

 

When we are allowed, we will begin a phased return to in-person instruction for students in the primary grades; for St. Monica, this represents TK to 5th grade. Again, we anticipate this happening in the next few weeks. Simultaneously, and operating under a different set of State and County guidelines, we aim to bring back students in the middle and high school grades for specialized opportunities: for instance, sports conditioning has already restarted in the high school. Individual schools have been granted leeway by the County to determine which of its students are being most negatively impacted by remote learning, and then bring those students to campus as long as a long list of procedures are in place and a long list of guidelines are adhered to. An important caveat is that these students are not to be brought back for direct instruction, as the students in the primary grades will be. According to the current State rules, the adjusted case rate needs to fall below 7 before the non-primary grades will be allowed to return to campus for instruction. The case rate in LA County has been below 7 only once since the pandemic broke last March, and we do not anticipate it getting there anytime soon.

 

Parents in the primary grades should expect a survey soon inquiring about your intentions: if invited, will you send your child to campus? We need to know how many students will be returning in order to take the next step in our planning: coordinating the schedule between the various grades.  A hybrid model of partial in-person, partial remote will undoubtedly prevail. Fully remote learning will continue for the rest of this school year for any student whose family chooses not to send them to campus.

 

You may have read that yesterday the CDC revealed a set of recommendations for the safe reopening of schools. We plan to fully implement the primary recommendations – masks for everyone at all times, safe distancing, regular handwashing, and regular sanitizing – as well as partially implement some of their secondary recommendations, for instance for screening testing. We will solicit input and keep you informed of the details. 

 

Even with COVID raging through the County, and even with the need to operate under the ever-changing muddle of safety rules and regulations, the thought of having your children back on campus in a meaningful way fills us and the teachers with joy, suitably tempered with trepidation.

 

Peace,

Neil Quinly, James Spellman, Kevin McCardle

January 7, 2021

Dear St. Monica Catholic Schools Families,

In her speech last night reconvening the session of the 117th Congress which had been disrupted by violent protests earlier in the afternoon, Speaker Pelosi reminded those present that yesterday was the Feast of the Epiphany, the recognition by the Magi of the Incarnation, the sign of hope in troubled times. As troubled as we were by the violent assault we witnessed yesterday, we, too, look to the Incarnation for our hope.

We saw through the evening, into the night and the first hour of today the processes of our democratic republic work themselves out. Challenged by violence, they did not succumb to it. Challenged by procedural objections, they debated and voted. That is the role those in Congress are elected to, and they executed that role. For that, we are grateful. Therein lies a lesson, a myriad of lessons, that will not be lost or swept under in our classrooms in the coming days. As they have in the past, as you would trust them to do, our teachers will address your student’s concerns in open but guided, age-appropriate discussions – in religion, social studies, advisory and home-room, math, PE, … – whenever the opportunity or need arises. We encourage you to engage your children in those conversations as well, reinforcing the point that violence is not the answer.

Speaker Pelosi closed her remarks by quoting the prayer of St. Francis. Let us join her in that prayer:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

The events in the Capitol overshadowed but did not diminish the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Someone died of COVID every six minutes yesterday in Los Angeles County, and another 50 people were diagnosed with it. Our prayers are with all those on the front lines of the fight against COVID and all those who are suffering its effects. Please continue to follow COVID-safety procedures at home and reinforce them with your children. We currently have no updates regarding our waiver application to bring students in TK-2 to campus. We will be back in touch as soon as we know more.

Peace,
Neil Quinly, James Spellman, Kevin McCardle

December 18, 2020

 

Dear St. Monica Schools Community,

 

We send you greetings of joy and hope as we prepare to take a few weeks off for Christmas vacation. Please continue to be safe as you celebrate with family and friends. We all need to do our part to get these Covid-19 daily case numbers down significantly. In addition to wearing a mask, maintaining a safe distance, and regularly washing your hands, please consider registering your phone with the state’s contact tracing application, CA Notify (https://canotify.ca.gov/); the more people who enroll, the more effective the system.

 

St. Monica Catholic Schools began this school year remotely as mandated by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health. Since the end of October, the County has allowed schools to appeal for a waiver to bring students in TK through grade 2 to campus for in-person education. After consultation with the parents, teachers, and staff of those grades, as well as Monsignor, the parish administration, and the Schools Board, we decided to apply for the waiver. We submitted the waiver application to the Archdiocese on December 10th, and after their review, they submitted it to LA County on December 15th. We anticipate a minimum 3 to 4-week wait time before we hear the status of our application from LA County. When we receive news, we will notify you. You can find the complete application on the schools’ websites: https://www.stmonicaces.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=1731937&type=d&pREC_ID=1906846 or https://www.stmonicachs.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=1704759&type=d&pREC_ID=1867491

 

We know that there are those among you who think we have been too slow in our efforts to bring students back to campus; at the same time, we also know that there are others who will think us foolhardy for even considering it. Be assured that we are listening to all of the voices as we make these difficult decisions. Thank you for your trust. The waiver application is the first step to a cohort model of hybrid learning for grades TK through 2nd. Other grades will not be affected by the outcome of this waiver application. In any case remote learning will remain an option for all students at all grade levels for the remainder of this school year. Also, while we are confident we have met and planned for the 200+ checklist items on the waiver, we will continually review the health and safety of our staff, students, and families before returning. At the very earliest, January 19th could be a date when we begin to phase TK-2nd grade students back to campus, allowing for a quasi-quarantine period after Christmas break.

 

Let this Christmas day be one of grateful joy as we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus. Let us praise God our Father for this gift of Jesus, whose presence teaches us to imitate his humility to fully share his glory.  On this Christmas Day, our prayer for our community is to place all our worries and concerns into the hands of the child born in Bethlehem, and to trust his love to care for us and those dear to us. Merry Christmas!

 

Peace,

 

Neil Quinly, James Spellman, Kevin McCardle

November 7, 2020

Dear Families of St. Monica Catholic Schools,

Thank you to those who were able to join us for our All Souls Day Mass last Monday. The Psalm for that Mass, Psalm 23, is apropos to the time we are in. It reminds us that “even though we walk in a dark valley,” we have nothing to fear, for God is at our side. We pray that you find comfort in that belief. We do.

When we wrote to you at the end of August, the number of new daily infections in Los Angeles County was falling rapidly. That number leveled off at about 750 a day in early September, and then began to rise again, doubling by mid October. Consequently, our thoughts of bringing students back to campus in any educationally meaningful way were not realized. However, we continue to plan for the eventual return of students without knowing exactly when “eventual” will be.

As part of our planning process, we are developing a Communication Plan that is consistent with the LA County Department of Public Health guidelines. Our goal in this letter is to outline what that plan entails: who will be notified of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases, either of a student or a staff member, and what notification the schools would need from you. Just as importantly, this letter will outline who will not be automatically notified. The communication plan has as its first goal the safety and protection of the entire community, balanced by respect for the privacy of the medical information that will be gathered. This is a system built on trust. We need you to trust that we will notify you immediately if your child is suspected to have been in close contact with either a suspected or confirmed case COVID-19. At the same time, we are trusting you to notify us immediately if your child is either exposed outside of school, exhibits symptoms, or tests positive COVID-19.

If the school becomes aware of either a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 in a student or staff member who has been on campus in the previous 10 days, a notice will go out (both via text and email) to the families of students with whom the case has either been in close contact (defined as being within six feet for more than 15 minutes) or who is in the same class or cohort. The exact instructions to those families will depend on whether the case is suspected or confirmed, and will depend on the then-current DPH guidelines, but would likely include testing and quarantining. This first notice will not go out to the entire school community, but will be restricted to the families described above. If as part of its investigation, additional cases are revealed that are linked to the first case, a decision will be made whether to notify the entire school community. Once there are three or more linked cases in a 14 day period, the DPH will send an investigative team, and we will follow their instructions. At that point, the entire school community will be notified.

Our on-campus safety protocols and procedures seek to minimize the chance of close contact between any students: the system is designed to keep students at least six feet apart at all times, hence minimizing the chance of on-campus spread of infection. This system, no matter how carefully enforced, will not work if students who are sick come to campus, or if the school is not notified immediately of a suspected or confirmed case; this includes a suspected or confirmed case of someone in the student’s household or someone outside the household with whom the student has been in close contact (for instance, they shared a ride somewhere or attended a gathering together).

It is vital that you keep us informed, so we, in turn, can keep you informed and keep everyone safe. In case of a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case in a student, member of the students household, or someone with whom the student has been in close contact:

• Elementary School families should notify Mrs. Correne Tallarico (310) 451-9801 x 1200;
• High School families should notify Mrs. Renett Young (310) 394-3701 x 1411.

Thank you in advance for your responsiveness to this request.

Peace,
Neil Quinly, James Spellman, Kevin McCardle
October 28, 2020
 
Dear Families of St. Monica Catholic Schools,

It has been wonderful to see those of you who have been comfortable enough to come to the school Masses the parish has been offering in the evenings on the yard. For those of you who are not comfortable or who for some other reason have been unable to attend, you remain in our prayers; we imagine you here with the others. Rest assured that all COVID-related safety protocols are being followed. The Masses will continue for the near term; watch the Weekly Compass and the Seahawk Newsletter for details.

Our main purpose in writing today is to update you on current plans. It has been disconcerting to observe, but the infection count in Los Angeles County, after decreasing rapidly from late July to early September, has started to increase. The number of daily infections last week was more than double what it was five weeks ago. Los Angeles County seems stuck in the lowest tier, and rules for the lowest tier disallow the general reopening of schools. In the best of circumstances we will remain in the lowest tier for at least another month. Overlaying those restrictions on the school calendar between now and Christmas break, we do not anticipate bringing students back to campus for in-person learning for the rest of this calendar year: it will be January at the earliest.
 
You may have read that the County has been allowing a waiver process for students in TK through second grade. While we are not planning on applying for that waiver as of now, we are open to the possibility. We will schedule meetings with the parents in TK through second grade in the next two to three weeks to hear your input.
 
Thank you all for your patience and support as St. Monica Catholic Schools maneuvers through this time. We could not do what we do without your unwaivering support of your children’s teachers and of your children’s education. We have all been thrust into conditions we did not choose. We count on God’s providence and the support of the St. Monica Community to carry us through.
 
Peace,
Neil Quinly, James Spellman, Kevin McCardle
September 30, 2020

Dear Families of St. Monica Catholic Elementary School,

As you may have seen in the headlines today, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted
yesterday to offer waivers to allow students in grades TK to 2 to return to campus under fairly strict
conditions.

A reading of the complete story reveals that this is for a very limited set of schools, 30 a week in all of LA
County. The order is for schools serving primarily low-income families. St. Monica Catholic Elementary
School does not qualify. For the near term, your children’s education will continue remotely. The good news is that COVID-19 conditions in Los Angeles County have been improving. There are two major benchmarks that the State takes into consideration: number of new cases per day, and rate of positive test results. The County is well below the threshold for the second metric, and is occasionally below the threshold for the first metric. Standards require the County to be below both metrics two weeks in a row to allow further reopening.

It has been wonderful to see all of the families who have been attending the grade-level Mass in the
evenings, and Monsignor and the teachers greatly enjoyed the donut drive-thru last week. We will continue to think creatively about ways to build community and are open to any suggestions you might have. Thank you for your collaboration in your children’s education, and thank you for your continued support of our teachers.

Know that you are missed and loved.
Peace,
Neil Quinly and Kevin McCardle
August 30, 2020

Dear Families of St. Monica Catholic Schools,

        Psalm 63 from the opening school Mass proclaims “My soul clings to you;
        your right hand holds 
me fast.”  We pray that God’s right hand is holding you
        and your families fast and safe.

Welcome to the most unusual start of a school year ever. Remote learning is well under way at both schools, with most technical glitches having been resolved. Our opening school Mass was a wonderful kickoff; thank you all for participating.

As Monsignor mentioned at the opening Mass, we are planning a series of grade-level Masses at 6 pm on the school yard beginning the day after Labor Day. A schedule and invitations are forthcoming. These are not intended as an excuse for parent meetings, but rather are a chance for us to gather and worship in groups of about 100. Families will be spaced 6 feet apart. Registration, temperature screening, and masks will be required.

If you have been following the news, you will know that the rate of COVID-19 infection in LA County has been falling steadily since mid July when Governor Newsom put the County on the watch list and mandated remote learning for schools. We anticipate the rate will soon fall to a point which will allow for waiver applications to bring students in the lower grades of the elementary school back to campus. It will be a while longer before we will be allowed to invite back the other grades. Our attention and efforts have now turned toward those preparations. (You may have heard of the possibility of child care in some schools, but we are not planning on that option.) There is much to be done, and we will keep you apprised as our plans progress. As an example of the sort of preparations that are underway, see the attached picture of one of the six, portable, 2-sided, hand-washing stations that will be placed throughout the school yard.

While we are preparing our waiver application, we ask you to think long and hard about the decision you will face of whether to continue remote learning for your child or whether you want to register them for on-site. Remote learning will remain available for the near future. For those who choose to continue remote learning, we will ask you to maintain that status for a period of several weeks.

Repeating some comments from our letter of July 20:
         
You, too, have a part to play in the next phase. Returning to campus is a privilege. Strict adherence to the safety policies will be enforced. Students at all grade levels and all staff must be in masks at all times other than at lunch. (Face shields are not an acceptable substitute.)  Each person will need to register and have their temperature taken on arrival. Procedures for dropoff and pickup and for lunch are still being worked out. If your child is exhibiting symptoms or has been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, your child will need to quarantine at home for 14 days and participate in remote learning. Procedures will be in place if a student or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19.

It is easy to get mired in the details of what we are doing and planning, but we never lose sight of the our  ultimate    responsibility: the safe, effective, and loving education of your children in a school centered on the tenets of our Catholic faith. It will take the active and willing participation of every one of us, of every member of our community to keep our students and staff as safe as possible. We are counting on you as much as you are counting on us.
 
We are also continuing our responses to the issue of systemic racism. Being educators, we begin with conversation, and being Catholic educators, our conversation begins with prayer. Both schools will be accepting an invitation by the Department of Cathlic Schools to join St. Bernard and Verbum Dei High Schools in a prayer for racial justice on Monday at noon. All school families are invited to join the Novena for Racial Justice starting Sunday August 30 sponsored by the Outreach and Pastoral Care Ministry at St. Monica https://stmonica.net/racialjusticenovena And we are all invited to join the call from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops for a day of fasting on September 9, the feast of St. Peter Claver. We know, of course, that conversation and prayer are just the beginning; further action is still required.
 
Peace,
 
Neil Quinly, James Spellman, Kevin McCardle
 
__________________________________________

July 17, 2020
Dear Families of St. Monica Catholic Schools,

     In the reading from Isaiah for mass on Tuesday this week, the Lord tells his people
     “Unless your faith is firm, you will not be firm.” Our faith is firm. We pray that your
     faith, too, is firm.

Our letter of early summer indicated that our hope for August was to bring back to campus as many students as possible who wish to return to campus on as regular a basis as possible. We have been hard at work making that hope a reality. While the details vary between the High School and the Elementary School, we were on target to meet that hope. We intended to bring students back to campus in several cohorts through the first weeks of school. Accomodations would be made for those parents who chose to continue their student’s education with remote learning. (Not all parents are ready to send their children back to campus.) With his message of today, the Governor has delayed that hope. Unless conditions in Los Angeles County change dramatically for the better in the next two weeks, we will be forced to reopen schools remotely. While the Governor’s order changes the date of implementation of our plan to bring students back, it does not change the nature of that plan.

You have probably heard that both Los Angeles Unified and Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School Districts opted to open school remotely even before the Governor’s mandate. The difficulties they would face in bringing students back to their campuses dwarf the planning that we need to do. On Monday of this week, the LA County Department of Public Health published guidelines for the reopening of K-12 schools. There are over 200 check points to be addressed; we are well on our way to addressing them. A blank version of the guidelines are attached so you can see the sort of issues we will be addressing. Once we have addressed all of the checkpoints, the finished document will be shared with you.

Each school has a task force or set of committees looking at various aspects of planning, and we have a community wide task force as well. The schools are not solving their problems in isolation, but coordinated with each other and with the parish. The community wide task force is chaired by Daniela Girbal-Shilvarjo, HS Guidance Counselor and former parish facilities manager. In addition to the three of us, the other members are Felipe Sanchez, Parish Director of Administration, Valerie Vespe, ES VP, Maribeth Gonzalez, Kindergarten Instructional Aide and HS parent, and Miguel Arizmendi, HS Dean of Students and teacher.

Classrooms are being reconfigured so students are six feet apart. Every space on the campus, including parish space, is being considered for possible usage to allow distancing. We have ordered extra handwashing stations to be placed throughout the yard, touch-free thermometers to record temperatures of students and staff as they arrive, special cleaning tools to disinfect classrooms, masks and gloves, and plexiglass barriers to provide separation in staff offices when six feet is not possible. Devices are being purchased to allow for hybrid models of instruction: some students in the classroom with the teacher and some students either in a separate room or at home. You, too, have a part to play.

Returning to campus is a privilege. Strict adherence to the safety policies will be enforced. Students at all grade levels and all staff must be in masks at all times other than at lunch. (Face shields are not an acceptable substitute.) Each person will need to register and have their temperature taken on arrival. Procedures for dropoff and pickup and for lunch are still being worked out. If your child is exhibiting symptoms or has been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, your child will need to quarantine at home for 14 days and participate in remote learning. Procedures will be in place if a student or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19.

We will remain in remote learning until the conditions in LA County improve enough that it falls off the state’s monitoring list and stays off that list for 14 consecutive days. Inclusion on the state monitoring list is triggered by a variety of infection measures, such as number of active cases per capita and rate at which tests come back positive. We will alert you at the first positive sign.

It is easy to get mired in the details of what we are doing and planning, but we never lose sight of our ultimate responsibility: the safe, effective, and loving education of your children in a school centered on the tenets of our Catholic faith. We also do not lose sight of the cause for all of this planning: the devastating toll that COVID-19 is having globally and locally, with over 4000 deaths in LA County alone. Our prayers go out to those who have been directly impacted by the death of a loved one. Moving ahead, it will take the active and willing participation of every one of us, of every member of our community to keep our students and staff as safe as possible. We are counting on you as much as you are counting on us.

Peace,
Neil Quinly, James Spellman, Kevin McCardle
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July 17, 2020
Below are the Los Angeles Department of Public Health Orders for reopening K - 12 Schools.

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June 15, 2020
 
Dear St. Monica Catholic Schools Families,

In the immortal words of Alice Cooper: “School’s out for summer!” The last official event for either school was the SMCES closing mass on Friday, June 12.

Before we briefly outline our planning for the upcoming summer and the 20‐21 school year, it is, we think, worth reflecting on this past year. The 2019‐2020 school year was shaped by global and national crises in ways not experienced in our lifetimes. COVID‐19 forced a fundamental shift of education overnight, and St. Monica Catholic Schools were ready. A fully on‐line education is not something we would have chosen to deliver, but deliver it we did. Our curriculum and its delivery will never be the same. Your participation in that effort was key, and we are most grateful. Another defining event that will reshape our curriculum was the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing public outcry, bringing racial inequality to our immediate attention. Both schools have addressed the issue of racism over the past few weeks, and will continue to train faculty and students: racism has no place at St. Monica.

Over the past two weeks we held a series of celebratory end‐of‐year events: Baccalaureate masses were live‐streamed, but the graduation ceremonies were in‐person drive‐thrus with Pomp and Circumstance, confetti flying, and horns honking. Be sure to check out the videos that are available on the school websites. Our heartiest congratulations to the classes of 2020!

Looking ahead there will be minimal summer school this year for the high school, and all of it will be online. Unfortunately, there is no summer school for the elementary grades. This summer will be devoted to planning and professional development.

Our planning for next school year is driven by several principles, the well‐being of the students being primary. Our plans will be guided by instructions from the LA Dept of Public Health, which derive from the CA Dept of Public Health and the CDC, and the ADLA Dept of Catholic Schools. To give a sense of the planning that is entailed, the CA DPH guidelines for reopening schools are enlightening: https://covid19.ca.gov/pdf/guidance

Expect to receive regularly scheduled letters such as this, providing you with current updates. All communications will be stored on the school websites under the COVID‐19 button. You will be surveyed as plans unfold. The school administrations will hold separate, regular virtual meetings with parents to take questions and gather input. When school reopens in mid‐August, we will strive to have as many students back on campus as possible, as frequently as possible. Students in the lower grades will receive priority, though it will not be exclusive. Undoubtedly, remote learning will be part of the mix. Our plans will be coordinated between the two schools. As of now, we have more questions than answers:

      - What will carpool be like?
      - What is the daily schedule?
      - Will there be fall sports?
      - How will recess work?
      - Lunch?

We invite your questions, but please understand we are unliekly to have immediate, satisfactory answers. Your questions, however, will help to ensure that we do not overlook any planning issues. Please email one of us with your questions. One thing we do know: masks will be required at all times for all grade levels, so stock up now and get your student used to wearing them for extended periods.

Both schools continue to enroll new students for the fall. If you have not yet re‐registered, please do so as soon as possible. There is financial aid for those in need; application details are on the school websites.
 
In the second reading for yesterday’s Sunday mass, St. Paul reminds us that we are each and all part of the body of Christ. We begin this summer attuned to the practical reality of that truth.
 
Peace,
Neil Quinly, James Spellman, Kevin McCardle

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May 11, 2020
Dear St. Monica Catholic Schools Families,

As we enter week 8 of remote learning, we hope this finds you well.

In our letter of early April, we held out hope for a return to in-school learning before the end of the school year in June. We are now saddened to announce that we will be continuing with distance learning for the rest of this school year.

The health and well-being of our students and their families, and of our faculty and staff, is paramount. Our action is directed by guidance from local health and government officials, and by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Department of Catholic Schools.

Our planning now is twofold. In the short term, the elementary and high school will each provide separate details on the ending of the school year, the return of electronic devices and other school materials, and the pick-up of any personal items that remain at school. For the eighth graders and seniors, additional information will be provided regarding Baccalaureates and graduations. Our hope is to provide a memorable set of experiences, working within the constraints of public health and government directives.

In the middle to longer term, we have begun planning for return to school in the late summer. We will prepare for a possible return to campus, with all of the safety precautions that that will entail, but with the understanding that if conditions dictate, school will begin next year as it is ending this year – remotely.

Peace,
Neil Quinly, James Spellman, Kevin McCardle
 
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April 2, 2020
Dear  St. Monica Catholic Schools Families,


In our ongoing efforts to protect the health and wellbeing of our schools community, we are announcing a change to our expected return-to-campus date. The date that we announced two weeks ago for the students to return to campus was April 20, the Monday after Easter break. Realistically, April 20 is no longer a viable return date. To better match conditions in Los Angeles with regard to COVID-19, our new policy is that we will be running school via distance learning until further notice. This is the distancing policy directed by the Governor, and it is the return-to-school policy adpoted by Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District. It allows us and it allows you to begin planning for after April 20, and it allows us the flexibility to return to campus as soon as conditions warrant. This decision was reached in consultation with Monsignor and with the Schools Board; it has their full support.

We are not ready to throw in the towel on this school year and cancel it completely (as most universities have done). At some point we may be forced to that, but our hope is that students will return to campus in time for both the 8th grade and the seniors to have graduation on the currently scheduled dates. We are committed to returning as soon as it is safe and practicable. You can expect to hear from us regularly as plans develop.

Yesterday at mass, Dr. McCardle spoke about hope, and finding hope in a future that we have a difficult time discerning. We have hope in a loving God, and we have faith in the capacity of your families to get through this. It is our fervent belief that St. Monica Catholic Schools will be stronger educationally because of this experience. We greatly appreciate your forbearance.

Peace, 
Neil Quinly, James Spellman and Kevin McCardle
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March 20, 2020:
Dear St. Monica Catholic Schools Familes,
 
As we come to the end of this first week of education delivered via distance learning, we are grateful for the incredible efforts put in by our faculty and staff, we are grateful that your children have responded to this difficult and unprecendented situation with poise and a positive attitude, and we are grateful for your expressions of support. There are still kinks to be worked out, but by and large, the system seems to be working.

 

We want to inform you that based on the most recent order of the Health Officer of the LA County Department of Public Health ("Safer at Home Order for Control of COVID-19" issued March 19, 2020), St. Monica Catholic Schools will not reopen to on-site learning on April 1 as previously planned. The Health Officer's order mandates that we continue online distance learning until April 20, the Monday after our planned Easter break. We will continue to provide you with updates to that plan as we receive them.

 

There is a line in Psalm 51, "Lord, in the secret of my heart, teach me wisdom." That is our prayer for ourselves and our administrative teams. Please, pray for us to receive wisdom's guidance. 

 

Our prayers go out to you and your families, and to all those affected by this viral pandemic.

 

Peace,

Kevin McCardle, James Spellman and Neil Quinly

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March 13, 2020:
Dear St. Monica Catholic Schools Familes,
 
We were advised this morning by the Department of Catholic Schools that as of Tuesday, March 17, all Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of LA will be moving to remote learning until at least March 31. Campuses will be closed to students; our campus will be closed to students. All sporting and other events are cancelled.
 
Our teachers have been in professional development in preparation for this eventuality, so we believe we will be able to continue to deliver a St. Monica education to your children. There is much we do not know at this point, many questions we do not have an immediate answer to, questions we have not even conceived of. Please be patient with us as we work through this.

We will send another letter later in the day with more details, but we wanted to get this information to you so you can begin your planning. We appreciate the enormous disruption this will have on your family life, and will do our best to mitigate as much as the disruption as possible.

Please continue to pray.
Peace,
Kevin McCardle, James Spellman and Neil Quinly
Event Cancellations:
 
All events are cancelled until further notice. This includes all athletics and extracurricular events.
Emergency Tuition Relief:
 
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