(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) For the first time in five months, Bishop LeBlond welcomed returning students back inside the classroom.
“It’s definitely weird coming back to all of this,” said Grace Heater, incoming senior at Bishop LeBlond.
Tuesday morning, the Eagles returned to in-person learning. Since March, students were forced to learn remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Seniors walking into their last first day of high school said looking ahead, they're trying to stay cautiously optimistic.
“Just make the most out of senior year, whatever we get of it,” said Isaac Ferguson, incoming senior at Bishop LeBlond.
In an effort to save their senior year and keep the students in class, Bishop LeBlond implemented several safety guidelines. One being a daily health screening of students that parents are asked to submit to staff every morning.
“It just safeguards our faculty, our staff and the other students. We’re also doing the thermometer check, so it’s just a double whammy to keep the kids healthy and making sure that we’re putting kids in that are not sick and exposing other ones to COVID-19,” said Ann Lachowitzer, Bishop LeBlond principal.
The Eagles also added a new piece of clothing to their school uniform, a mask. Administrators said the mask mandate has been less controversial than she thought.
“You know, we were surprised. It was awesome actually. We didn’t have any issues with how they were wearing them. They followed the procedures and procedures we put in place, so I’m thanking my parents and students for making sure that we’re keeping each other healthy,” said Lachowitzer.
The private catholic school has 168 students this year.
While a smaller student body can be seen as beneficial during a pandemic, administrators said figuring out how to quarantine will be Bishop LeBlond's biggest struggle this school year.
“We are going to see kids that have to get quarantined no matter what because they’ve been exposed and so, switching to that virtual piece making sure that we’re giving kids those opportunities to still remain in school, but at home,” said Lachowitzer.
Seniors said they understand going back to remote learning is a possibility this fall, but said they have faith their school is doing what it can to keep them in class.
“It would be irrational to not think of it as an option, but I feel like our school is handling it really well. The masks, the mandates, no microwaves, no water fountains. I’m not really concerned on how we’re handling it. If we go online, I guess that’s just unfortunate,” said Elliott.
Administrators said while the catholic school doesn't have a certain threshold in mind that would result in virtual learning, Lachowitzer said if the school's COVID-19 cases reached the same percentage as a school facing a flu pandemic would, that's when the school would look at returning to virtual learning.