by Eric A. Thomas
The year 2020 is definitely one for the books. Our lives have taken many detours this year and no segment of society has been untouched by COVID-19. Many people and organizations have been forced to redefine their daily routines in the name of safety; this includes area schools.
In June, Routt Catholic High School (RCHS) formed a Reopening Committee with the goal of bringing their student body back into the classroom safely at the start of the 2020-21 school year. The committee included Principal Nick Roscetti, members of the school board, faculty and staff, parents and alumni. The group met weekly to formulate a clear plan of safety in this uncertain and unchartered climate.
The guidelines set forth by the group aiming to get students back into the classroom included:
• Everyone in the building must wear a mask at all times.
• Anyone entering the building must have their temperature checked and answer screening questions.
• Directional signage was added to hallways and stairwells.
• Extra desks were removed from each classroom allowing for six feet of distance between each student.
• Students are encouraged to carry their books in backpacks cutting down on the need to go to their locker which reduces hallway congestion.
• Passing periods were altered by two minutes and they are done in split shifts with freshmen and sophomores changing classes together followed by juniors and seniors.
• The school has implemented a second lunch allowing outdoor eating when the weather is cooperating.
Principal Roscetti was asked about the work the committee did over the summer to ensure in-person learning in the new school year. “It has been well worth the effort we put in during the summer to prepare. Even though we still have restrictions such as masks and limited social time, our students are genuinely excited to be back at school and have approached this year with great gratitude,” commented Roscetti.
The first semester was successful for the first few months. Students have been engaged in class projects, science experiments and writing contests. “My favorite part of the year so far was building trebuchets in physics class. We had to be careful with social distancing while in our groups but, it was worth it in the end,” remarked senior Emily Cosgriff. A trebuchet is a machine used in medieval siege warfare for hurling large stones or other missiles. “Despite this not being a typical year, the ability to see all of my peers in the classroom and be with my teammates for sports has been my most favorite part,” added junior Braden Cors. In athletics, the golf team had nine students with two qualifying for sectional competition and the girl’s swimming team had over 20 girls compete with five advancing to sectionals.
Mike Little, the father of freshman Kinzie Little and a multi-generational alumnus of RCHS, is comforted by all the preparations to keep his daughter safe. “The administration at Routt has worked tirelessly during these trying times and I have 100% confidence in them.” Amanda Hutton, the mother of senior Jonah Hutton, echoes that sentiment but added, “I am so thankful and feel confident that Routt has implemented every safety precaution to ensure that my son has a safe and successful in-person learning experience.”
While school systems nationwide are experimenting with a variety of situations to make learning happen both online and in person, the staff at RCHS enjoyed having the students back. “Being face-to-face doesn’t mean things are as open as they have always been,” concluded Scott Maruna, teacher of physics, chemistry, drama/theatre and algebra II. “Every day has been a bit of an adventure, at best, and a consternating puzzle, at worst, but always rethinking how things have to be done.”
While the school has done an outstanding job maintaining a safe environment, they had to suspend in-person learning and turned back to distance learning on November 9 due to two simultaneous positive cases among the students. “Due to the rising cases in Morgan County and the fact that a third of the student body had to quarantine because of close-contact exposure, we made the difficult decision to keep everyone at home,” reported Colleen Doyle, RCHS development and enrollment director and alumni. Returning to distance learning until after Thanksgiving break, the employees worked tirelessly to clean and disinfect all of their facilities so they could bring the students back safely. In an email to all students and parents, Principal Roscetti said “our goal is to complete the final 12 days of the semester using in-person learning and hold semester exams as scheduled December 16-18. We will continue to monitor our school and area data to determine our course of action going forward.”
Routt provides a faith-based environment, esteemed faculty (with a combined 170 years of service), staff and well-known academic rigor individualized to everyone who enters their doors. “We’re not just a school, we’re a 118-year-old family with a commitment to illustrating to our students the importance of not just bettering themselves, but also bettering the world around them through service,” concluded Doyle. They boast a 100% graduation rate and greater than 90% of their graduates go on to higher education or military service. Over the last three years, their graduates have received over $1 million in college scholarships.
RCHS is now taking applications for the second semester which begins on Monday, January 4. Anyone interested can contact Doyle through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 217-243-8563 ext. 6. You can schedule a tour of the facilities, arrange for a Zoom meeting, or simply talk with her on the phone. For more information, you can visit them on the web at www.Routtcatholic.com.