SARATOGA SPRINGS — Saratoga Central Catholic School (SCC) is starting out the new school year with a new principal. Joe Kilmade has replaced former interim Principal Michael Kondratowicz as the head administrator for the 2020-2021 school year.
Kilmade is a former native of the Capital District, born and raised in Albany. He returns after most recently serving as Administrator and Principal in the Archdiocese of St. Louis for the past eleven years.
“It is great to be back home in the Capital District, close to family and friends and serving the community at SCC,” said Principal Kilmade. “I hope to partner with families and teachers to build a program that meets the academic, emotional, and spiritual needs of the students entrusted to our care. Through listening, planning, and creativity, the great tradition of success at SCC will continue while new programs and facility upgrades bring the school to a new and exciting place.”
Kilmade addressed the parents of SCC at his first Virtual Parent Meeting on Aug. 4. His address started with citing the single most strongest element that his administration described as characteristic of Saratoga Central Catholic. The unanimous response from staff and faculty was the “sense of community” that was noted as prevalent within the school. Kilmade pointed to that strongpoint as “the reason why the school will make it through these difficult times, helping one another.” He reinforced the message that SCC is committed to creating a learning environment that protects students’ and staffs’ health, safety and privacy.
According to the Reopening Plan that Mr. Kilmade introduced, “while schools have been instructed to prioritize efforts to return all students to in-person instruction, SCC is also planning for remote/distance learning, as well as a hybrid model that combines in-person instruction and remote learning. Parents will always have the choice to remain in the remote learning model. Every five weeks, at progress reports and the end of each academic quarter, parents will be able to opt-in to the remote learning model. Once opted-in, students remain in that model until the five week period is up. If during the first week of a new five-week cycle, a student wants to opt-in who had planned to be in person, they may do so.”
Families will be asked to formally state their intention for in-person or remote learning via a signed form by the parent.
Every day will begin with a health check for teachers, administrators and students before entering the building. An isolation room for anyone showing signs of COVID-like symptoms during the day has been designated on the middle floor of the building. Teachers will be taking on additional roles within the school striving for more “hands-on-deck” at all times. The school will invest in PPE equipment and masks that will be made available as needed throughout the day.
Regarding masks, the Reopening Plan states that, “face coverings are strongly recommended to be worn by all students at all times indoors and outdoors, but required to be worn any time or place individuals cannot maintain appropriate social distancing. Masks will be required in hallways and bathrooms. Students will be allowed to remove face coverings during meals, instruction, and during short breaks, so long as they maintain social distance.” Any person without a facemask will be provided one by the school.
Kilmade went on to discuss the “deep” cleaning of the school that will take place. He shared the wonderful news that Jamie Kennedy of KPM Restoration has generously donated a complete professional sanitizing of SCC before the school year opens in September. Regular cleaning and disinfection of the facilities will occur on an on-going basis, including more cleaning and disinfection for high-risk and frequently touched surfaces.
Saratoga Central Catholic will be utilizing a “Cohort Approach” to building usage, which has to do with keeping students together in small groups and reducing exposure to additional students. Plans are in place to limit the number of students in each room over the course of a day/week. The Middle School will be grouped together on the ground floor of the school, Juniors and Seniors will take over the first floor classrooms and Freshman and Sophomores will utilize the top floor of the building. In addition, new spaces will be created and/or utilized including St. Peter’s Parish Center, which will serve as one of two separate student Cafeterias. Big round tables in the lunchroom will seat three students so that only 30-40 students will have lunch at once. Families will pre-order lunch the week before. Lunch bags will be labeled so the school can keep track of what was ordered for each student. St. Peter’s Parish Center will also host art and music classes once or twice a week.
Other changes will involve Physical Education classes. PE classes will be held outside or in the gym or throughout several classrooms. PE classes will be combined from 40 minutes twice a week to 80 minutes once every three or four days. School-issued PE uniforms will be required so there is no need to use the locker rooms.
All athletics are on hold until Sept. 21, at which time a decision will be made as to whether winter athletics will be played starting Jan. 4, 2021. There will be a distance of 12 feet maintained between students when engaging in physical activity.
Multiple entrances to the building will be used to limit high numbers of people entering and exiting at any one time. No outside visitors or volunteers will be allowed on the school campus, except for the safety and well-being of students.
Throughout the facility, there will be directional arrows showing the flow of movement as well as markers for waiting areas in spaces where a line may form. Signs will be posted around the building reminding students to socially distance. Within the classrooms, desks will be positioned six-feet apart from each other and the school will follow direct guidance protocol from the State of NY. Air circulation will be enhanced by opening doors and windows and the school will add window fans for increased air flow.
Academics-wise, the majority of school work will be submitted digitally. SCC will be moving to a single online learning platform, Google Education Suite, which will streamline file sharing and email communication. Classes will make use of either a Google Classroom or Schoology site associated with it to facilitate the sharing of materials and classroom interaction in a uniform way across the school. Every class will have a digital profile so if the school needs to pivot, the transition will be an easier one.
Regarding bus transportation, the public school districts will be providing SCC bussing. Buses will only be able to transport a quarter of the number they used to. School bus drivers, monitors, attendants and mechanics must wear a face covering along with an optional face shield. Transportation to and from the North Country and Amsterdam, which SCC has provided in the past, is currently being assessed as to whether it presents itself as a reasonable option or not going forward.
The full report for the Education Department was submitted by SCC on Friday, Aug. 7 and is posted on the SCC website at www.saratogacatholic.org.
Kilmade shared the influx of interest in enrollment at this time due to the small number of students within the school and the detailed preparation toward in-person learning.
Kilmade said, “many new families in the Saratoga and surrounding areas are thoughtfully considering Saratoga Central Catholic School as a safe educational choice. In light of COVID-19, many parents are looking for small educational settings and many are looking for a remote learning option. I believe that SCC has outlined a cohesive plan of Reopening that allows parents freedom and versatility to change their learning method as situations change. We have taken the time to address student, faculty and administrative needs in great detail.”
Kilmade invites families to set up a meeting to discuss anything they have questions about, stressing that their comfort level is of utmost importance to him. For more information on Saratoga Central Catholic’s Reopening Plan, visit www.saratogacatholic.org.
Q&A with SCC’s New Principal:
Q: What are your thoughts on this upcoming school year?
A: “I am very much looking forward to this school year. It’s definitely going to be different and present some challenges but I am enjoying getting to know the community here and working with them to come up with a plan that works for everybody.”
Q: How have the parents responded to the reopening plan?
A: “Very positively. We did a survey prior to formally publishing the announcement about the plan so there were a lot of questions about: can we be remote by choice, or are we going to be in-person? But since we’ve published it, it’s been very positive feedback.
Families will get the option every five weeks to choose to have their students be in attendance remotely. So that kind of satisfies families who were nervous about coming back and want to stay connected to the school. We also have the in person instruction so those who want to return to school in person can.”
Q: When do classes begin for the year?
A: “We start Sept. 14. [It’s] only a few days later, usually we start the week after Labor Day but we pushed it back so we had a couple of days for teacher meetings and student orientation.
That week right after Labor Day we will bring the kids back in small groups for a couple of hours and kind of go through what their day will look like and the do’s and don’ts.
[Starting two days later] gives us just a little bit more time. There is a lot of new procedure and things going on in the building that you have to get used to.”
Q: How has enrollment been? How are you dealing with the volume?
A: “Yes we have had an increase in enrollment. We are up about ten-percent from a month ago. For us that means 20 new students.
How are we handling it? We kind of identified our max class sizes. Classrooms can only hold a certain amount given restrictions on distancing. So what that means for example, eighth grade we can’t really have more than 30 kids because that’s two sections of 15 and we can do that. Once we get into groups of 16 or 17 [students] now we are running out of space. We had space in every class so we are doing okay. We don’t have to add classrooms or sections of things. We were kind of ready for an increase so we were able to handle it well.
Our max class sizes will be about 15 or 16 [students]. We have a couple spaces that can hold up to 20 but those spaces can’t be used by every teacher all day.
The building will be separated. We will have our middle school on one floor, ninth and tenth on another and eleventh and twelfth on a different floor as well. For the most part they will stay in those spaces throughout the school day, and there will be some movement.”
Q: What is the policy on in-person instruction and masks?
A: “What we are saying is that we will follow the guidance from the local health department and NYS. There is some clarification going on locally about what the guidance is.
Last time we heard and we interpreted: students, if they were in the hallway or common areas, had to have a mask but once everyone was in a class, seated and distanced it was optional. If that guidance changes we will adjust accordingly”
Q: Are you excited to be the new principal?
A: “I’m very excited. This is a wonderful community, even in the middle of all this, and not being able to meet people in person how I would prefer to, they have been very welcoming and gracious. It’s a great place to be.
The community here has been very supportive and the leadership of both the outgoing principle and the school board has been great.”