Information on COVID-19
All information presented here was prepared with the assistance of the COVID-19 Task Force of Saint Joseph High School and the Diocese of Pittsburgh. It also includes any orders, directives, and/or clarifications from the CDC, Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Education, the Governor’s Office, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, and the Allegheny County Health Department. It is understood that this is a fluid site that will be edited as necessary as circumstances and/or government or diocesan directives change.
*last updated January 10, 2022
View the SJHS Health and Safety Plan.
In December of 2021, the Diocese of Pittsburgh Director of Catholic Schools Michelle Peduto put out the following message:
" Catholic schools serve a critical role in the faith formation, education, and emotional development of each student they serve. For over two hundred years Catholic educators have engaged in this ministry, they have faced and met numerous challenges. For almost two years, Catholic schools have faced and overcome challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We did not let our students down.
As Catholic communities, we are called to protect and enhance the life and dignity of each person while also living our Gospel call to love one another, be mindful of the common good, and to protect the vulnerable among us. Therefore, we will continue our requirement that adults and children wear masks inside all Catholic school buildings in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The current mask requirement, coupled with the close contact distance of 3 feet, has reduced the number of close contacts required to quarantine compared to last year despite comparatively high case counts. While cases are rising in our schools, our contact tracing shows that COVID is not spreading within the schools but coming into the schools from external events.
It is and has been our goal to keep as many children as possible in school for in-person instruction. We continue to have concerns for the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff members. Current staffing shortages in western Pennsylvania warrant extreme care in implementing mitigation strategies that keep our teachers safe and healthy in school.
With the holiday season upon us, we want to use every mitigation possible to enable our students and staff to enjoy the events of the season and the start of winter sports. We will review our current mitigation strategies in mid-January. This will provide a two-week buffer following the Christmas holiday break and an opportunity to review the community spread within each county and recommendations from the CDC to determine next steps. Our current health and safety plan states that the mask may become optional when community spread is in the low or moderate category.
We have heard from many parents on both sides of the masking debate. We recognize that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future, and we are examining the proper process and metrics for transitioning from mask required to mask optional. "
The mission and identity of our Catholic schools, which exhort us to act selflessly for the sake of others, contributed to the decision to institute universal mask-wearing for both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals in our schools. As noted previously, the same extensive network, data, resources, values, and beliefs will be consulted monthly in order to determine the continuation of, or changes to, this policy and all other safety protocols established to maintain in-person instruction and to keep our schools safe.
All students, faculty, staff, and other individuals will be remain required to wear a well-fitting mask whenever indoors on the campus of SJHS.
Mask breaks can occur under the following scenarios:
- When a student, teacher, or staff member is six feet or farther from all other individuals and engaged in independent activity, s/he may take a mask break for under 15 minutes. (Five to ten minutes is maximum recommended time.)
- When a student, teacher, or staff member is eating lunch, it is understood that a mask will not be worn. As soon as the individual has finished eating/drinking, s/he must resume wearing a mask.
- Whenever a student, teacher, or staff member is outside, provided that it is not in a large crowd situation, masks are NOT required at the time of this document’s creation.
- When a teacher or staff member is alone in a closed, but ventilated office space, s/he may take a mask break.
- A teacher may pull down his/her mask to speak, if six feet or farther from students, for a brief period of time, in order to clarify something pertinent to the lesson being conducted.
- During active play (including indoors).This includes gym class and indoor sports practices and games.
For maximum effectiveness, masks should be washed daily and never shared. As more information on the virus has become available, it is now known that transmission of the virus occurs through respiratory droplets and close human-to-human contact. The careful practices of hygiene, frequent hand washing, wearing masks, and minimizing touching of the face significantly reduce the risk of transmission and will be regularly reinforced throughout the school day.
What happens after exposure depends on your COVID-19 vaccine status.
- If you are fully vaccinated and do not have any symptoms of COVID-19 you do not need to quarantine. However, you should get tested 5-7 days after exposure and wear a mask indoors for 14 days or until you receive a negative test. If the test comes back positive or you develop symptoms, you should isolate for 10 days from the date of your test or 10 days from onset of symptoms.
- If you are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated, you must quarantine for 14 days after your last exposure. Quarantine may be ended early if the following conditions are met:
- 1. After 10 days, if no symptoms develop
- 2. After 7 days, if no symptoms develop AND you receive a ‘negative’ result from a test performed 5 or more days after the last exposure. (PCR tests are recommended)
Quarantine means that because you are now at high risk of developing COVID, you need to stay in your home and away from people. We recommend that you seek COVID-19 testing. If your test result is positive, you will be contacted by a health department case investigator and provided isolation guidance.
Procedures and Protocols When an Individual is Sick, Exposed to COVID, or Positive for COVID
The individual who is ill or who informs a member of administration or a member of the school office that they have been exposed to an individual with a confirmed case of COVID-19 will be sent to/retained in the office and sent home immediately. If the individual is exhibiting shortness of breath, a high fever, or other distressing symptoms, 911 will be alerted so that the individual can be transported to a healthcare facility.
The area occupied by a sick individual will be closed off so that respiratory droplets can settle, and then thoroughly cleaned and disinfected. All areas that the sick person may have used, such as offices, bathrooms, and common areas, will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
Close contact tracing and quarantine procedures will be followed according to the flowchart noted on both the CDC and ACHD websites. The COVID-19 flowchart clarifies the steps that will be followed, depending on whether an individual is vaccinated/unvaccinated, how close and how long an individual was in contact with an infected person, and whether an individual is experiencing symptoms or tests positive for COVID in the days following exposure.
The Assistant Principal will be responsible for making decisions regarding quarantine or isolation requirements of faculty and staff.
Conditions to be met prior to the return to school for a staff or student with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 are outlined on the flowchart.
Classrooms/Learning Spaces Organized to Mitigate Spread
Student desks will be separated by three feet or more, to the maximum extent possible. When students are in collaborative situations, teachers will be mindful of maintaining physical distance as much as possible, and/or limiting the amount of time students are closer than three feet to under fifteen minutes. Whenever students are indoors and six feet or less apart, masks will be worn, whether a student/teacher is vaccinated or unvaccinated, in accordance with the diocesan universal mask policy.
Adequate spacing that aligns with CDC guidelines for schools will also be accommodated to the maximum extent possible in all community spaces throughout the school. The following parameters have been set for K-12 schools, and is noted on the flowchart at the bottom of this page with regard to close contact tracing:
In the K–12 indoor classroom setting, the close contact definition excludes students who were within 3 to 6 feet of an infected student (laboratory- confirmed or a clinically compatible illness) if both the infected student and the exposed student(s) correctly and consistently wore well-fitting masks the entire time.
As noted under the mask policy statement, “mask breaks” are permitted indoors for approximately five to ten minutes, provided that six feet or more of physical distancing is in place. Also as noted previously, masks are not required in outdoor settings unless students, teachers, and/or staff are gathered in a large crowd and cannot maintain physical distance.
Hand sanitation centers will be easily accessible in hallways, classrooms, and throughout the school buildings.
When weather permits, classes can be held outdoors on our campus, at the prerogative of the teacher.
Cafeteria service will be available to students, faculty, and staff. Students will be spaced out at lunch to minimize the number of individuals in close contact with each other while eating and without masks.
While we realize that in-person instruction is the most conducive environment for student learning and well-being, the need for virtual learning may become necessary due to school required COVID-19 quarantine. These are the only instances whereby virtual learning will be utilized. Virtual learning experiences will be initiated and coordinated by the Administration and Faculty of SJHS and will consist of a combination of asynchronous and synchronous learning, recorded video instruction, online resources, and Zoom opportunities.
Provided that students maintain physical distance and wear masks when indoors, after school activities may continue.
If in compliance with the state guidelines for events and gatherings, in-person gatherings may occur.
High School sports may continue following the local PIAA regulations and Diocesan protocols. Currently, CDC guidelines do not require masks to be worn while actively playing sports if the individual is fully vaccinated.
If you are traveling, please inform the school and discuss with the Assistant Principal. The guidance regarding travel changes frequently, and international travel may require quarantine and testing.
- International Travel: International Travel During COVID-19 | CDC
- Domestic travel: There will be no domestic travel restrictions or quarantines for either vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals for the current school year unless circumstances change and new directives are issued. Students should continue to adhere to all masking exceptions during airline travel and in crowded situations.