Safe Return to the 2020-21 School Year

July 10, 2020

Dear Marist Community,

In today’s rapidly changing world, we take the complete health and wellness of our students, faculty, and staff very seriously. Our partnership with you in raising healthy, intellectual, faith-filled young people is a privilege, and a challenge. The past few months of the pandemic have altered the view and practices of what many would deem “normal.” Practices and protocols that once made sense, now appear illogical, problematic and laborious. Obvious to all is that the pandemic has altered many things, with education being one of the most prominent changes. Until we have a clearer view of the virus, education needs to be re-envisioned and transformed in order to fully serve our students. What a typical school day looked like a year ago and how instruction was delivered must be reimagined, and the changes we need to execute must provide our students with a holistic value-based Catholic education.   

As we work to form our young women and men during this tumultuous time in our history, we are leaning on educational research-based best practices and thinking creatively about best methods, while also trying to deliver a pathway to close learning gaps. With the new school year approaching quickly, we are feverishly working to provide our students with the best experience, the best education, the best resources, and the best transition. The purpose of this letter is to provide you with insights into the steps we are taking to reopen school, what we know about and are planning for 2020-2021 academic year, what is occurring with co-curriculars, and our key calendar dates for next year. 


Safe Return Committee Work

One of the areas we have been reflecting upon deeply in recent months is how students, faculty, and staff can return safely to Marist High School for the 2020-2021 academic year.     

The Safe Return Executive Committee was formed in early May, and includes four administrators, our athletic director, chief financial officer, school nurse, and the director of facilities. This committee is coordinating the work of six subcommittees to make recommendations on how to best serve our students, faculty, and staff in the safest and most effective manner. Our subcommittees are focusing on the following: teaching and learning, professional development, health and well-being, co-curriculars, spirituality, and operational components of returning safely to school. These subcommittees are composed of various faculty and staff members from throughout our organization along with a few outside professionals. 

Our work is following the protocols and practices shared by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and the Illinois High School Association (IHSA). The detailed guidance released in late June by Governor JB Pritzker and the ISBE has been assisting us in our planning for the upcoming year. The guidelines for reopening school mandate the following: 

  • Requires use of proper face masks;
  • Requires social distancing as much as possible;
  • Requires an increase in schoolwide cleaning and disinfection;
  • Limits gatherings of individuals to 50 or less in a common indoor space;
  • Prohibits individuals from entering the school building if symptomatic for COVID-19; and
  • Requires individuals to self-certify they are free of symptoms prior to entering the building or requires that schools must conduct symptom screenings and temperature checks.

Returning to school requires new protocols and practices. The guidance from the ISBE advises schools to plan for three possible options: (1) traditional on-site, (2) remote online, and/or (3) hybrid or blended model. Due to stipulations imposed by the government, and the size of our student body and school building, we are contemplating beginning the school year with a hybrid bell schedule in order to reduce the number of students on campus at any given time. Currently, we have not decided on what schedule we will utilize, but we will announce it in the coming weeks.

Key Dates for 2020-2021 Academic Year

Based on the combined input of leaders throughout our RedHawk community, we will follow the dates outlined below for the 2020-2021 academic year. As the COVID-19 circumstances evolve, there may be a need to amend our academic calendar dates. However, if changes must occur, we will communicate with families in a timely fashion.

  • August 17                                             Return to School for Teachers
  • August 24 (M)                                       Senior Orientation (time TBD)
  • August 25 (T)                                       Junior Orientation (time TBD)
  • August 26 (W)                                      Sophomore Orientation (time TBD)
  • August 27 and 28 (Th/F)                      Freshmen Orientation (8:00 AM – 3:00 PM)
  • August 31                                             First Day of Classes
  • September 7                                        Labor Day – No Classes
  • November 21 – 29                               Thanksgiving Holiday
  • December 19 – January 3                   Christmas Holiday
  • January 18                                           MLK Day – No Classes
  • April 1 – 11                                           Easter Holiday
  • May 28                                                 Last Day of School

IHSA Update – Athletics and Band  

Recently, the IHSA altered their Phase 4 Return to Play plan due to a directive from the IDPH. The guidelines permit all IHSA member schools to begin voluntary summer camp days, but they eliminated all physical contact. Marist will move into Phase 4 Return to Play for both returning students and incoming freshmen from July 13 through August 7.  Due to the changing guidelines, we have updated our summer camp schedule.  The schedule can be found here, and modifications are denoted in red.  

As we begin Phase 4, we will be following the procedures and protocols shared below. 

  • Online registration is required in order to participate in any summer IHSA activity at Marist.  Registration is open via 8to18 which can be found on our webpage
  • Coaches will assign registered students to groups of 50 or fewer. 
  • Students will be screened at the start of practice for temperature >100.4F/38C or symptoms of COVID-19 (fevers, chills, cough, muscle aches, headache, sore throat, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of taste or smell). 
  • Students must self-monitor for these symptoms prior to arrival at Marist. Any person with symptoms or a positive COVID-19 test, should not participate in practice, competition, or conditioning and should be referred to a physician for evaluation and only return after clearance to do so from a physician. 
  • Students are required to wear masks (covering the mouth and nose) if they are participating in any indoor camp. Students participating in physical activity outside while social distancing are NOT required to wear a mask. 
  • Marist employees and students are asked to abide by the Chicago Travel Order which took effect July 6. Travelers entering or returning to Chicago from states experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases will not be allowed to attend camp and need to quarantine for a 14-day period from the time of last contact within the identified state.
  • Students must be honest about their health, and stay home if they have any symptoms. 
  • Locker rooms will not be utilized for summer play.  
  • Camp fees must be paid via credit card, cash, or check at Marist on the first day of camp.  There is no online payment option for camps.
  • All summer activity at Marist will be subject to IHSA Stage 4 Return to Play guidelines. Should the IHSA change their guidelines again, we will adjust our protocol too. 

Adhering to these protocols and being honest about your health will ensure that all students continue to play in the coming weeks and months. Some coaches or athletes may choose to continue preparing for their season at home via virtual meetings and personal workouts. Summer activity is never mandatory and participation cannot be held against any coach or student.

Transitioning to 2020-2021 Academic Year

The administrative team and various subcommittees recognize establishing the right pacing, sequence, and scheduling will not only ensure the safest return for our students, faculty, and staff, but also contribute to the overall wellness of our school. The Marist Safe Return Executive Committee and the administration will take the next few weeks to continue to examine and review all of the components. Our goal is to communicate our updated plans and schedule no later than the 1st of August. We remain aware of the potential for new information and possibly new mandates to unfold and are developing plans with flexibility in mind.

Please continue to pray for the Marist community and all schools as we journey together through these trying times. We know that you make great sacrifices for your children to be educated at Marist. We appreciate your ongoing support, patience, flexibility, and commitment. We are privileged to partner with you in forming the next generation of women and men whose voices, values, and vision will change the world.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay distanced.






Kathryn M. Baal, Ph.D.