Students at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional School will be greeted with temperature checks, hand sanitizer stands and markers for social distancing when they return for in-person classes.
The school is one of 41 Catholic schools that are part of the Arlington Diocese reopening for the fall start with face-to-face classes. Some will offer a hybrid model with in-person and distance learning, others will be solely in school five days per week.
"We know learning occurs best in person and the human person is body and soul, and no technology can replace being physically together," said Sister Mary Sheila, the school's principal.
She spent the summer preparing for the preschool through eighth grade students to return. One of the new measures will require all students to wear masks during the school day.
"We’re teaching children to wear their masks because of health and safety but also because in society today it’s a new way to show the virtue of courtesy, how we’re thoughtful of others," Mary Sheila said.
The school will have fewer students this year than previous years because of the cap placed on enrollment.
All students will be issued an iPad or Chromebook in case they have to shift to remote learning at some point.
There are mixed feelings about the start of the school year. A combination of nervousness and excitement precede the return to classes, Sister Mary Sheila said.
In terms of enforcing the new guidelines, she believes their theme that love is patient and kind will set them up for success.
"Being patient with ourselves, with the new procedures and being kind to everyone in how they are enforced."