Greetings, SJA Parents!

I hope you and yours are well and are enjoying the warm weather. This message is to inform you that St. Joseph Academy’s K4 – 8th grade will begin the 2020-2021 school year in a distance learning format. This means no students will be on campus. Distance learning will continue through the remainder of 2020 and our goal is to safely, and enthusiastically!, welcome students back to the building on Monday, January 4, 2021.

In the spirit of transparency, please allow me to share with you just some of the considerations that went into this decision.

* Most of our students live in a 2-mile radius.

* The 53215 zip code, in which SJA sits, is considered a Hot Zone.

* Cases are steadily increasing at 40-50 cases a day, currently.

* There is still a high infection rate.

* There are 70% more cases than when we closed in March.

* There is new information about the virus being more airborne and staying in the air longer than previously assumed.

* One third of children in Florida are testing positive for COVID-19.

* No one truly knows that returning hundreds of children and staff to breathe the same air for 7 hours a day is a safe approach with current levels of positive cases, etc.

* Some staff and students/families have communicated their own health concerns re: vulnerability to COVID-19.

* We believe a few more months of discomfort and inconvenience are worth the effort to prevent sickness or death.

* We prefer the “being safe vs. sorry” approach, if the worst outcome were to befall a student or staff member.

* Other industries and companies are restricting the number of adults inside, with some not planning to return to offices until 2021. Why are teachers and kids different?

* With over 140 parent responses to the “Back to School” survey, there is overwhelming support for SJA keeping students and staff safe by continuing the distance learning model.

* Advisors consulted with: Walker’s Point Clinic, 16th Street Clinic, CDC, DPI, Milwaukee Health Department & the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

For all these reasons above, SJA believes it is in the best interest of our students and staff to continue with distance learning for the rest of 2020. If the virus is contained earlier and the data and information suggests it is safe to return earlier, we will be gladly surprised and open earlier.

Another important piece of information I want you to know is that we made this decision before we learned the following: The City of Milwaukee Health Department has yet to elevate the city’s status to Phase 5, which is the only Phase in which students are allowed back to any school, public or private, in the city of Milwaukee. Private schools only became aware of this information two days ago (7/15). See Page 7 of the city’s Moving Milwaukee Forward Plan for more details. As you can imagine, this created quite a stir in the private school community over the last 48 hours. The biggest take-away from this is that no school in Milwaukee is even allowed to open right now under current conditions, even if they wanted to.

To support families technologically, we have ordered Chromebooks for all students K5 – 8th grade. K4 and K5 students will receive learning packets for their students. Back to School packets for parents will go out in the next 7-10 days and will include a “break it, you buy it” form for the Chromebooks. Distribution of Chromebooks and other materials will occur in late August via curbside pick up. Details to come.
We will likely be able to continue curbside food distribution to families, but details forthcoming.

Communication will be key. Please opt-in to receive text messages from us with our new SchoolMessenger service, if you haven’t already. Keep the email that you enrolled with active, as we will use that to communicate with you, as well.

I hope and pray this message eases some anxiety, uncertainty, or angst you may have been feeling. That being said, now that you have this information, what questions do you have? Please email me those questions so we can have as much clarity as possible. My email is shanson@sjamilwaukee.org

Thank you for your patience and cooperation in doing what is best for our community here at SJA.

God’s peace to you,
Mr. Scott Hanson
Principal, St. Joseph Academy
414-645-5337 x314
shanson@sjamilwaukee.org

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