As school districts statewide grapple with the challenge of reopening schools safely this fall, four private schools in Janesville say they feel confident their students can return to classrooms.
Smaller class sizes than public schools and larger classrooms are the norm for private schools, several principals said.
Enrollment at Rock County Christian School has jumped 20% since school ended in spring. The school will offer in-person instruction for its 300 students five days a week this fall.
Head of Schools Ron Gruber said having two campuses, one in Beloit and one in Janesville, will help the school implement proper social distancing measures.
“We have grade levels that are between 15 and 18 (students) and others that are 30-plus, so it’s about trying to make that work and space everybody out,” Gruber said. “We have three gym spaces between our two campuses we can use to space students out, too. We will utilize every square foot we have to comply” with social distancing guidelines.
A committee of teachers and parents helped administrators create the reopening plan. Full details will be shared with families next week after school officials digest survey data from families about reopening, Gruber said.
Oakhill Christian School also plans for fully in-person learning this fall. Masks will not be required, but students and faculty will have their temperatures taken twice a day. Hand sanitizer and deep-cleaning measures will be used heavily.
The school has an auditorium, which could be used for social distancing. The school board, parents and faculty helped come up with the plan, Principal Jim Eaker said.
Kim Ehrhardt, principal at St. Mary School, agreed that a smaller student body will help the Catholic school operate within the requirements needed for in-person education. St. Mary will have students in classrooms five days a week.
“I do think we’re uniquely capable given our enrollment situation to be able to do in-person education,” he said. “Here is where the size situation is a pretty positive attribute that we have that will allow us to do that if, in fact, school starts.”
Ehrhardt said the school also could consider virtual learning for any students or families that are uncomfortable returning to school buildings.
St. Matthew’s Lutheran School expects to welcome about 75 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade when students return to classes at the end of August, said teacher and Principal Kevin Proeber.
A number of safety measures, such as social distancing, temperature checks and hand sanitizer stations, will be implemented. Each child will have access to his/her own mask, but masks will not be required.
The school has a learning system based on four stages. Phase one requires fully virtual instruction, while phase four calls for a return to standard educational practices.
As schools continue to determine how best to educate students amid the pandemic, Proeber said private schools are trying their best.
“What we are doing is trying to do the best we can to keep the children safe with the changing events in the community, while also giving them the education they deserve,” he said.
St. Paul’s Lutheran School, St. John Vianney School and St. William School did not offer information on their reopening plans.