Queen of the Rosary and other students return to class with new protocols

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Vanessa Korpyta adjusts her papers during class at Queen of the Rosary School in Elk Grove Village on Aug. 18, 2020. A bottle of hand sanitizer sits on her desk to use throughout the day. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

To read this article in Spanish, click here.

When kindergarten through eighth grade students returned to Queen of the Rosary School in Elk Grove Village Aug. 17, it wasn’t exactly like normal.

Parents had to stay in their cars, said principal Kathleen McGinn, while children went into their designated doors to have their temperatures checked and asked if they had any symptoms of COVID-19.

Once in the building, students were welcomed to rearranged classrooms, with many classroom furnishings removed to allow staff to spread desks further apart.

“It went well,” McGinn said. “There were no hiccups at all. Not even any crying children.”

Pam Pontrelli, a school parent at Queen of the Rosary for 17 years, said some things were normal.

“My son came home and said he got in trouble for talking,” she said. “But he’s always been a talker.”

Pontrelli’s youngest, Dylan, is a fifth grader at Queen of the Rosary, and he was happy to get back to school and see his friends.

“I think it’s so important for the kids, not just the academics, but the whole social and emotional aspect of it,” Pontrelli said. “They need to be back in school.”

Students at Queen of the Rosary and other schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago have not been in school buildings since mid-March, when first the archdiocese and then the state of Illinois required schools to close their doors.

Students returning to Catholic schools across the archdiocese will be met with the same new procedures and guidelines that were in place at Queen of the Rosary: temperature, symptom and mask checks to go along with hand sanitizer on the way in, masks while the students are indoors unless they are eating and desks spread as far apart as possible.

When students can remove masks, when outdoors and while eating, they must be at least 6 feet from one another. They also are to stay in the same cohort all day.

Pontrelli said students in Dylan’s class now must raise their hands to get a drink from their own water bottles, because they have to remove their masks to do so.

“The teacher doesn’t want everyone doing it at the same time,” Pontrelli said.

Dylan was a little worried that he would be behind when he went back to class, his mother said, because it had been so long since he set foot in a classroom, even though schools did remote learning in the spring.

“I told him not to worry, everyone is in the same boat,” Pontrelli said.

While Queen of the Rosary could not have its usual back-to-school ice cream social and supply drop-off day, there was a car parade the week before classes started for parents to get used to the new traffic pattern and for students to wave to new and old teachers, McGinn said.

The school welcomed 246 students on Aug. 17, with an average class size of about 16. Preschoolers were scheduled to start later on in the week. About 10 percent of school families opted for e-learning instead of returning in person, but the school welcomed some new students as well.

Once they made their way to classrooms, students did some introductory exercises — Pontrelli said her son’s class did an “all about me” assignment and talked about what they did during  summer break — before being dismissed for the day at noon.

“They did well,” McGinn said. “They kept their masks on.”

Some teachers took their classes outside so they could remove their masks for a while, and McGinn said the school plans to put up two or three canopies that teachers can use to teach classes outdoors as long as weather permits.

Pontrelli said she and other school parents have confidence in the school leadership and in each other’s families.

“A lot of it is common sense,” she said. “Wear your mask, wash your hands, don’t play with your mask. We were pretty prepared.”

McGinn said she’s been communicating with the school community ever since March, and those communications picked up at the beginning of July when the Office of Catholic Schools announced its reopening plan.

Parents like Pontrelli, who was one of a handful of volunteer directing traffic in the parking lot, make the job easier.

“A Catholic school is like a family,” Pontrelli said. “We all do our part.”

The end of the day also went well, McGinn said, although the pickup procedures might need a little tweaking.

“We might have a little maneuvering to do,” she said. “It was fine, but there were a couple of traffic jams.”

“It’s trial and error,” Pontrelli said, “Thank God all the parents were understanding.”


  • catholic schools
  • coronavirus
  • covid-19

Related Articles