St. Tars convent to be razed; outdoor classroom planned for new school
by BRIAN NADIG
Demolition of the Saint Tarcissus Parish convent, 6035 W, Ardmore Ave., is scheduled to begin next week, and the space will temporarily be used as an outdoor classroom for the new Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity School before eventually being converted into a parking lot.
The school will open for in-person instruction Monday, Aug, 24, and is planning to offer students several learning and recreational opportunities in which they will not have to wear a mask.
Those include independent reading outside where the students will be spaced at least 6 feet apart, lunch, recess, outdoor gym classes and occasional classes under a tent after the demolition of the convent is completed. Nearly all other times students will be required to wear a face covering, and they will undergo temperature checks at the beginning of each school day.
Students who are sick will be isolated from the other students, and parents are asked to pick them up within 10 to 15 minutes of being notified.
Plans call for students in each grade to remain separated during the school day from the other grades so that if a student were to test positive for COVID-19, only the children in that one classroom along with any siblings would have to quarantine for two weeks.
At an Aug. 6 meeting with parents, principal Dr. Kristine Hillmann explained that the school will have one classroom, or “cohort,”per grade and that there will be staggered starting times and multiple entrances to help avoid interaction among the grades. Children also will be directed to go directly to their classrooms once they enter the building.
“We don’t know how long this is going to go, (and) we know this is going to be challenging,” Hillmann said of the new procedures. Students, who must be wearing a face overing before the enter the school, are being asked to have an extra mask in their backpack.
Hillmann added that parents will not be allowed inside the school and should not congregate outside the building.
“We are really minimizing the contact our students have,” she said. “I had to get rid of the volunteer hours, (and) I don’t know how you run a school without parent volunteers, but we are going to try it. … That’s part of the Catholic community, having pair parents in, volunteering and helping us out, and we can’t do that.”
Plans also are being made for thorough cleaning and sanitizing of desks, light switches, sinks and other portions of the building, Hillmann said. In addition, shared books will be kept off the shelf for three days after a student is finished with it, she said.
Parish pastor Mike Grisolano said that in a webinar for pastors, officials from the Archdiocese of Chicago were “confident” that in-person instruction can work during the pandemic. “Your kids’ safety is the number priority, but also their total well-being, including their education, (and) the archdiocese is very much convinced we can pull this off,” he said at the meeting with the parents.
Meanwhile, the school, whose enrollment is about 200, also is offering remote learning for those parents who are not comfortable sending their child to the school during the pandemic.
“We hope to be able to livestream classes so that students at home can receive the instruction at the same time as their in-person classmates, and then work independently,” Hillmann said.
The Saint Elizabeth parish was formed July 1 and resulted from the merger of the Saint Tarcissus, Saint Thecla and Saint Cornelius parishes and their schools. The new school is housed inside the former Saint Tarcissus School, 6040 W. Ardmore Ave., which in recent years was home to the north campus of the Pope Francis Global Academy, whose other campus at 6143 W. Irving Park Road is still operating.
In other news, the planed demolition of the convent, also known as the Parish Life Center, has resulted in the relocation of the Louie G Food Pantry collection shed from the convent’s courtyard to a new location between the church and the school.