Shields have been installed on the shared desks at Bishop Foley Catholic High, adding another layer of separation between students to keep them safe while they learn in person.

Shields have been installed on the shared desks at Bishop Foley Catholic High, adding another layer of separation between students to keep them safe while they learn in person.

Photo provided by Bishop Foley Catholic High


Bishop Foley Catholic High resumes school with in-person learning

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published September 18, 2020

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MADISON HEIGHTS — The public school districts in Madison Heights and Hazel Park have transitioned to remote learning for the start of the new school year, but Bishop Foley Catholic High in Madison Heights is taking a different approach.

While it ended the last school year with remote learning, for the new school year Bishop Foley is on campus full-time, resuming in-person learning but with many safety precautions in place to protect students and staff from the spread of the coronavirus.

School officials say that this approach is manageable at Bishop Foley due in part to its smaller class sizes — about 18 students per classroom — that allow the school to safely space out students.

Along with social distancing, the school requires everyone to wear masks at all times, and all surfaces are sanitized after each class and lunch period. Hallways are separated with one-way lanes, with staff supervising compliance. Lockers are not being used to avoid crowding in the halls, and the students are provided with Chromebooks for studies, eliminating the need for textbooks.

The students on the school’s robotics team have also built protector shields for all of the classrooms that add yet another layer of separation between students. The teachers even use hands-free mics to amplify their voice while wearing a mask.  

A full list of safety precautions, along with the school’s “Return to Learn” plan, is available at the school’s website, bishopfoley.org.

“We began preparing to return to in-person learning on June 30, as soon as the guidelines were officially released by the Return to Learning Advisory Council,” said Frank Accavitti III, principal of Bishop Foley Catholic High. “Preparing for every eventuality has been exhausting, and it has certainly been an unplanned series of expenses, but we knew we had to invest in safety if we wanted to be able to keep true to our mission.”

While the school hopes to remain in-person, Bishop Foley also has extensive plans in place for switching back to remote learning if necessary, with support for Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and a full Google Suite including Meet and Google Classroom, plus the school’s existing online student and parent portal assignment, calendar and grading systems.

The school successfully transitioned all of its classes online back in the spring, including Advanced Placement classes and testing that qualifies for college credits. In the event of virtual learning, students would record their performances for classes such as dance, band or art.  

“There are backup plans upon backup plans, and we’re ready for whatever is next,” Accavitti said. “Preparing for that has been a major undertaking, but also a great growth opportunity for teachers, many of whom continue using tools they learned during the shutdown now that we’ve returned to the classroom.

“I’m proud of the work of our dedicated staff who researched, retrained and revamped the building to prepare everyone to be here safely, and now continue to enforce distancing, spray down surfaces, and manage classes and departments every day,” he said.

Bishop Foley also had to adapt its approach to events. When the school shut down March 10, it had to cancel the annual Amy Uebbing Auction — its largest fundraiser of the year. Five more fundraising events have also been cancelled. The Amy Uebbing Auction has since been rescheduled in a virtual format for November.

“We have adapted how we go about raising funds, and we have had to be very cautious, knowing our support base may be experiencing financial difficulties,” said Evelyn Schaublin, director of advancement at Bishop Foley.

The school recently held its first fundraiser since the pandemic hit, in the form of the annual Bishop Foley Catholic Alumni & Friends Golf Outing. This year, the event restricted the number of golfers to 100 due to pandemic concerns, and the dinner was held outside rather than indoors, under a tent. The event sold out weeks in advance.  

The school itself currently enrolls around 300 students, including nearly 70 freshmen and four new transfer students. This is comparable to last year’s count. Officials say that the school has seen an increase in inquiries and applications from families who want face-to-face learning and who have concerns about online classes.

Bishop Foley is a four-year, co-ed, college preparatory high school. Due to the smaller class sizes, teachers can spend more time with each student. Teachers also hold office hours that the students can sign up for if they need additional tutoring beyond school hours, a service that would also be available online in the event of remote learning. Counselors are also available. In addition, the school’s tech staff provides support seven days a week for any technology issues.

Students are receiving the same amount of class time this year; the only change to the schedule has been an added lunch period to better socially distance the students at lunch. This year as in past years, students start their days at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:50 p.m., Mondays through Fridays.

“Over the past few weeks, I’ve been asked by family and friends how our school could be open, in-person, every day of the week. I tell them that our staff knew there was no substitute for in-person learning for our students’ success, and when you prepare for something every day of the summer with one goal in mind, you get it down,” Accavitti said. “Foley is here because we want to be here, and so every day, through faithful actions and proper planning, we’re here for the greater mission of our school and the Church itself.”

Bishop Foley Catholic High is located at 32000 N. Campbell Road in Madison Heights, and can be reached by calling (248) 585-1210.

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