Jesuit Community back on campus with alterations and additions to second semester

After concluding the first semester, which saw many students safely return to campus amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Jesuit High School Sacramento is looking to build on this success in the second semester. 

The school operated in full distance learning for its first week back from Christmas Break in order to give teachers who are welcoming a new student roster the chance to meet everyone in a similar format.

Delaying when students return to campus was also aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 as recent holiday gatherings may have resulted in a rise in the number of positive cases. 

With the first semester largely being a success, the school seems to have a relatively similar plan in the second semester except for a few significant adjustments. 

The biggest change this semester is that students are allowed to be on campus four days a week. In the fall, students were split into Red and Gold cohorts with the Red group coming to school Mondays and Tuesdays, and the Gold group on Thursdays and Fridays.

Now, students can choose to be on campus on either or both of the Red and Gold cycles. 

“In our experience of the first semester when we returned to campus, we knew we had the safe capacity to extend the invitation for more days per week,” said Jesuit Principal Dr. Michael Wood ’99. “We were surprised in some ways that many students chose not to come back to campus … and that was a choice that we respected and wanted, but it means we have more capacity for students who did desire to come to campus, to be able to come four days a week or even five or six days a week given the programming that we’re offering.”

Jesuit President Father John McGarry, S.J. believes increasing the access students have to campus is extremely beneficial.  

“Being back in school is important for teenagers,” Fr. McGarry said. “We’re here because we care about our students and having [them] here more often and for more time and for activities is better for [students] than not.”

According to Dr. Wood, having more students on campus at once doesn’t just benefit the students themselves, but it also provides teachers a sense of normality. 

“Our teachers really trained to teach in a hybrid dual delivery model and for many of them it was somewhat disappointing to only have one or two students in the classroom,” Dr. Wood said. “It wasn’t really hybrid, it was online learning with a guy sitting there. I think for [teachers], they wanted a real experience of in-classroom learning for [students] who wanted it.”

Another key difference this semester is the screening process. In order for students to be on campus four days a week, they must participate in the screening session for each three-day cycle, which means getting screened on both Monday and Thursday.

In other words, “a Monday antigen screening clears a student through Wednesday, a Thursday antigen screening clears a student through Saturday” as stated in Jesuit’s Staying Connected Update on Dec. 17

As mentioned in the update, the screening windows have been extended to Wednesdays and Saturdays as additional programming has been added to those days

While it’s exciting to be able to have students on campus more often, it wasn’t possible without the efforts of Jesuit’s administration. 

“It’s been a ton of work since March,” Dr. Wood said. “It’s fair to say this has consumed our lives and as the principal of the school, it has consumed my life to find a safe way to return students and faculty and staff to campus and engage in as many elements of our mission as possible. We’ve had weekly meetings, multi-weekly meetings, thousands of phone calls [during] nights and weekends learning how to do this. No one’s had to do this before so there’s no playbook. In many ways, we’re writing our own playbook and letting that playbook be informed by experts who could advise us on how to do this correctly.”

Fr. McGarry is confident that the school’s second-semester plan will be successful.

“What was really important to us from the start, going back to last March, was to get us back here as soon as we could,” Fr. McGarry said. “I think the plan that Dr. Wood and the Assistant Principals came up with was a great plan and it served us well in the [first] semester and I think the adjustments they made to bring us back even more fully in the second semester are fantastic.”

While the school seems to be confident in its plan, we’ll soon see how effective it is as students are currently in their second week of being back on campus for the second semester. 

Additional information regarding Jesuit’s second semester COVID-19 response can be found on the school’s website.