While most things went smoothly for the first day at most Blessed Sacrament Catholic School this week, officials said in an email on Thursday that two individuals have tested positive for covid, resulting in the quarantine of 24 students.
The information released said officials learned Wednesday afternoon that a student in fifth grade and a first grade teacher tested positive. Both attended school on Tuesday, but neither were there Wednesday.
Quarantine guidelines recommended that four students who were identified as potential close contacts to the fifth grade were advised to quarantine, as well as 20 in the first grade class.
Despite that, when students returned to Most Blessed Sacrament on Tuesday, there was a kind of excitement in the air that did not exist when they left for summer break.
While the school, which only has about 240 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, was back in session for all of 2020-21, stark restrictions existed to keep students safe and distanced in the era of covid.
Now, with adjustments made to make moving freely throughout the school safer, 2021-22 is looking up.
“We had a great first day of school,” said Amanda Evans, the director of admissions and advancement at Most Blessed Sacrament. “We’re just so happy to see everybody back and get a little bit closer to normalcy, I guess the new norm, and have the children move throughout the school a little more and get to go outside and take their masks off if they’re playing far enough way from one another, and have lunch in our cafeterias.”
Last year, students were mostly confined to classrooms for activities and lunch. Now, they can move in the hallways and eat lunch, distanced, in the cafeteria.
Masks are still required for everyone indoors, a directive that almost didn’t happen because Gov. Larry Hogan has not issued a state mandate. Initially, the Dioceses of Wilmington, which sets protocols for MBS, allowed parents and guardians to choose whether to mask their children. But when members of the state board of education passed an emergency order requiring indoor masks for all schools indoors on Aug. 26, the diocese changed its stance.
Evans said the students have not had any issues with the masks so far.
“The children are great with them,” she said. “Sometimes I think that as adults it’s harder for us. They do such a good job with it.”
Evans also pointed out that the Berlin school’s 17 acres provides plenty of space for students to spend time outdoors, where they can remove their masks and play at a distance.
The school day began Tuesday with a prayer service for all families, which Evans said was also a new, positive experience.
“That was one thing last year, of course the families weren’t able to all get together in one place so we were able to get that this year,” she said.
Students returned to school Tuesday, with the year set to commence on June 16.
Worcester Preparatory School also had its first day for all students Tuesday, which Head of School John McDonald said went well.
“The kids seemed happy, parents seemed happy, everything went smooth and we’re off and running,” he said.
The roughly 480 students in kindergarten through 12th grade returned to the private school in staggered groups last week according to grade level, with everyone attending together for the first time Tuesday. The last day of school is currently set June 9.
Unlike Most Blessed Sacrament and the county’s public schools, Worcester Prep is not mandating masks, but instead just “highly recommending” them except in specific instances that include on buses for all students, and in hallways and common areas for students in lower grades who are too young for vaccinations.
McDonald said there was a mixture of masked and non-masked students in school Tuesday and that they were distanced at last 4 feet, which is easier since the school is small and enrollment is low.
“There’s some kids who chose to wear masks because it made them feel comfortable and other kids who did not,” McDonald said.
He added that he is keeping a close watch on the health metrics in classrooms and that officials are prepared if a student or staff member tests positive for covid.
“We’ve got seating charts, so if there is a close contact or a positive case, we’ll be able to identify the close contacts,” he said. “If they’re in a 4-foot room, there will be more close contacts than last year because they were all 6 feet but … from our lunchrooms to our classrooms we know where everyone is.”