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Mrs. Wicke is wearing the adult face shields and Russell III is wearing a child size.

Saint Margaret Catholic School students will return to campus this semester with health safety a top priority thanks to many innovative campus upgrades in place due to COVID-19.

“We are already able to have smaller class sizes,” Toni Chapman, director of development said. “Now, we’ve even condensed our classes even smaller.”

The pre-k through eighth-grade private school’s layout naturally lends itself to the social distancing necessary for student safety.

“We are encouraging all of our teachers to take their classes outside,” Chapman said.

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Partitions will be placed between classes for students eating cafeteria lunch. Students with sack lunches will eat outside on clear days.

Whether it’s the playground or other common areas, she said, “We have a lot of open areas and we’re going to make use of them.”

When students are indoors, upgraded air filtration and classroom changes will help combat the coronavirus.

“For the little ones we’re getting safety dividers built for their tables…And desks will be spread apart for older students.”

All students will also receive a face shield from the school.

“Our parents don’t have to go out and get one themselves,” she said.

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Desks are spread apart and no more than 25 people are in a class at a time — including teachers, aides and technicians for students receiving ABA therapy.

Students will be required to wear masks throughout the campus, but the face shield will provide extra protection, especially for younger students.

“It’s hard for little ones,” Chapman said. “They want to touch, feel, trade and all that so we’re hoping the face shield option will be better.”

With students as young as 3 on campus, she added the face shield may help students transition more smoothly into school life.

“We don’t want them to be afraid. We want them to be as safe as we can but help them be as comfortable as we can.”

Older students will be issued a lanyard to hook their mask onto and younger students will use a hook on their desk for storage.

“Hopefully that’ll prevent them from forgetting them,” Chapman said.

Saint Margaret will be conducting many of the same health safety checklists as other schools with one important change.

“We’re doing temperature checks but we’re doing that before they even get out of the car,” Chapman said. “We’re coming right up to them and checking each student in their vehicle.”

The Diocese of Lake Charles is offering a virtual learning opportunity but students who enroll in the program will still get some personalized Saint Margaret religious instruction, Chapman said.

Mass, which will alternate weeks between elementary and junior high school for social distancing purposes, will still be available to virtual students as well as religion courses taught by Saint Margaret instructors.

Extra-curricular activities like Beta, student council and the recycling club will be open to virtual students as well but athletics will not be, she said.

Ultimately, Chapman said the school recognizes that plans for the 2020-2021 school year may be “ever-changing.”

“We’re trying to make it as simple as possible. We just want everybody to be safe,” she said.

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