COVID-19 Updates


Notre Dame, along with the Diocese of Knoxville, continues to monitor and plan for the the 2020-2021 school year. Resources for our various programs can be found on the left hand column and a communication archive is below. 
Greetings from school!
I want to begin with continued and grateful praise for our teachers and our students and their efforts to keep everyone safe ... their cooperation in these less than desired circumstances has made a world of difference. We're not immune but every single act helps.
     Four weeks in and we're probably ripe for a little bit of complacency to set in. That's understandable but dangerous. Thank you for all the reminding you do at your home too.
     We've been blessed thus far for sure. All the possible exposures have tested negative. We really do appreciate everyone being cautious and keeping us informed. If there's need, we'll notify you from our end as well.
Attached please find three pieces of communications (and two Spanish editions) from our Superintendent, Dr. Sedonna Prater.
I also wanted to add names to the three new faces who are taking turns serving in our part-time nursing role. On duty everyday from 7:30-11:30, we're happy to have the services of three RNs, two who are alums - Lauren Simpson and Marlee Mullin as well as Melissa Meyers. We also have some moms who have volunteered to pitch in when schedules conflict - it's all very helpful. They've made morning check-ins much more efficient and I think everybody feels a lot better knowing they're here.
Moving forward, other than the occasional student who has to quarantine for exposure, our at-home learning situation has settled in. It's a challenge on both ends so thanks to our teachers and our at-home folks for all the flexibility being shown.
It's still only August and yet we've already wrapping up our fourth week ... after such a long layoff from the daily routine of regular school, it can be hard for young people to get back in the groove (true for at least one older person I know.) 
     So we invite and encourage our moms and dads to keep a routine eye on RenWeb where you can see not only earned grades but you can get a peek at what assignments may or may not not have been turned in. 
     Speaking as a dad who watched it happen in real time, it's pretty easy to go down the rabbit hole quickly. Thanks for everything you do to keep them on task.  
We took our first stab this week at live-streaming our Thursday morning Mass. Other than the part I messed up, it seemed to go well. Kudos to our staff for figuring out yet another new way to do something we haven't done before. One thing's for sure, we really look forward to when we can be together. Each week that we can't and instead take turns in our theater, we'll send out a link for any and all who wish to join us in prayer.
Also, in this world of new, we hosted our first on-campus athletic event this past week (Congrats to our Volleyballers!) and are getting ready for our first Friday night football game. We'll necessarily be limiting total ticket sales to 600, a third of which we trade with our visiting school. So there just aren't many to be had. If you think you or your student might be attending, please read the details in the related attachment.
----- ----- -----

Please keep Coach Fant and Laura Swenson in your family's prayers. Coach lost his 100-year-old grandmother recently and Laura's father passed away this past Wednesday. 
I also want to add my thanks and appreciation to all for the many kindnesses when my own mom died.
Be it a note or text, a quick prayer or even a passing thought, all are appreciated. Because if you have to walk down that path, it's easier when you know others know you're on it and they're wishing you well.
She was 87 so we're well aware how blessed we were to have her as long as we did except we thought she'd live to be 100. Healthy as a horse, it was all sort of sudden; after all it wasn't that long ago she went hang gliding for her birthday.
I knew she was a good human being but I didn't know so many other people knew it too. So for three full days we were flooded with expressions from so many talking about what she had done to help them or so many others. 
For me, it turned into a three-day guilt trip, quickly realizing if I want to see my mom again, I'm gonna need to amp up my game. A whole lot! 
I told the kids today that I hope they all have someone in their lives who inspires them to be better than they probably even knew they can be. My guess is for most of them that person is you. 
So thank you for being that kind of human being - someone like my mom who most definitely left the planet better than she found it. And thanks for inspiring your kids to do the same.
Hoping you are healthy and safe,
George Valadie
Greetings from school!
I had no idea how this return-to-school effort would go but I want to thank and commend our students who have done such a great job adapting to all that is new - temperatures / ID cards / six-feet / masks / lunches / long walks thru one-way hallways / etc.  We told them we have the new job of keeping them safe from this virus and their new job is to let us. No one likes all this but I think everyone gets it.
Similarly, teaching has taken on a whole new look as well what with cleaning desks every period and needing to be mindful of both in-class and at-home.  I commend our folks for all they're doing to make it work on both ends. They're earning every penny!
>> Some quick calendar notes - School Picture Day is next Monday (24th) for 9th/10th/11th. 
>> As you are likely aware, tomorrow, Wednesday (19th) is an At-Home Learning Day ... great opportunity to get caught up. And as much as the temptation will be there for our kids to "hang out" together, we encourage them to be smart and safe! 
>> On Thursday, it is our hope to have an All-School Mass at the football field. We won't be able to live-stream this one but will begin live-streaming Thursday morning Masses next week from the Theater. 
>> We have only 200 available tickets ($8.00 each) to sell to this Friday's football game that will be played at Central High School ... all tickets will be cash ... 
     we're going to allow our football and cheerleader parents to purchase tomorrow (Wednesday) ... however, since school will be closed (for our At-Home Learning Day), we're still making them available in our Athletic Director's office, Mr. Dusty Gunn, from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. in the Varallo Athletic Center ... 
     we will sell the remainder to our students and other fans on Thursday (7:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.) before having to return unsold tickets  ... cheerleaders in uniform will not need a ticket ... reminder: all fans must have temperatures checked at the gate, socially distance and wear a mask throughout the game.
     Please limit your purchases to immediate family. 
Thanks for everything you're doing at your house to help this go well. There's a better day coming! 
Greetings from Notre Dame!
Continued thanks to everyone for your patience and we really do appreciate all the questions as it helps us refine our communications skills. It's a crazy time, lots of new things. We sometimes forget that we've been working with this all spring and summer but you only got to see it last week. We're out of the office today but back at it on Monday. Have a great weekend.
Two things: 
(1) As mentioned before, today is the deadline for contacting our Academic Dean, Laura Swenson if you have questions regarding our At-Home Learning option.
(2) Attached is a letter from our Superintendent revising one of the policies that was sent out last Friday. To begin the school year, shields are no longer an option while in the classroom. Masks are being required at all times except lunch. As before, the policy will be reviewed every two weeks.
(3) As we get closer and closer, we continue to review everything we're doing and planning for the day-to-day to make it all work as safely and as smoothly as we can. Lots to learn, lots to pray about. 
Have a great weekend.
Greetings from NDHS! And thank you for your patience as we have been working on our return-to-school plan and procedures. It's the not knowing that adds to a family's anxiety, never good on any day but especially in this crazy year.
I wish I could promise you that what I'm getting ready to say won't change ... but you and I know the odds of that happening are slim to none. If things do evolve, we'll get information to you as quickly as we can. 
Much as your life has changed, so has ours. I'll freely admit, good ideas we had a month ago we've found to be not quite as good today. All I can promise is that we'll make every decision with student/teacher safety in mind ... not to mention I'm the oldest guy in the building and thus living life in the pretty-darn-susceptible category. We'll be as safe as we can.
We wouldn't have gotten this far without a lot of very helpful input from students, parents and teachers, the local medical community as well as a ton of hard work by our staff. Those efforts will likely get lost once we crank it back up but I do wish to publicly thank them. it's been inspiring to see so many people come together with a singular purpose - educating our kids as safely as possible. 
Like every school in our Diocese, our plan is a combination of Diocesan-wide decisions as well as those that we have needed to make here at Notre Dame.  In addition to some highlights you'll see below, we have included the following attached documents which will also be available on our website
   Attachment A -- Notre Dame Return-to-School Plan
       (Morning check-in / Classtime / Lunchtime / At-Home / Community Life / What Ifs)
   Attachment B -- Letter from our Superintendent
   Attachment C -- Diocesan Re-entry Policies and Procedures
It's a ton of reading. With five months to get ready, you'd think that's enough time to have considered all angles yet every new day seems to throw another "what if" in our direction. It is our hope that these answer most of your questions but if you have one we have yet to address, please give us a call. 
Some highlights:
>> Hamilton County Schools have some tough decisions in front of them too. As I've said before, what school wouldn't love to have a larger enrollment, but the family feel that we do have is enabling us more flexibility and why we can start together safely socially distanced. Scheduling all of that was an adventure but worth every ounce of effort. I commend our staff - and thank them.
>> We do have an At-Home Learning option that we know some families will wish to choose. By necessity, it will need to look somewhat different from last Spring. Parents told us that, students told us that, teachers told us that. 
     Students will need to be able to "attend" their classes via computer during their normal classtimes. If any family has need of internet services, please contact us as soon as possible so we can help get you set up. Others might need to borrow a laptop, we can accommodate that as well.  
     We completely understand and respect the choice to avoid bigger groups. We're hoping like you are that circumstances improve so you'll feel comfortable returning to campus - especially if you hope to get back to extra-curricular life that's such a big part of the student experience. 
     If interested in At-Home Learning, please contact our Academic Dean Laura Swenson by next Friday, July 24, to discuss what is involved and how it will work. 
>> As of today - Friday, July 17 - our plan is to follow this schedule: 
... Tue, July 28 - 9:00 a.m. - noon -  ID cards are going to be needed throughout the year. If you need a new one - or have never had one - we're inviting our students to drop by to take care of that. It's not at all necessary to get it done then because we'll also be making them during Orientation Days, but we're offering this as a way to help us get ready and help you avoid a line. Also, we will host a Spirit Shop Clearance Sale at this time. 
... Fri, July 31 - At Home Learners can pick up books, at-home orientation schedules, borrow computers, etc (1:00 - 3:00 p.m., NDHS Library)
... Mon, Aug 3 - Freshman Orientation, 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
... Tue, Aug 4 - Sophomore Orientation, 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
... Wed, Aug 5 - Junior Orientation, 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
... Thu, Aug 6 - Senior Orientation, 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
... Fri, Aug 7 - Classes begin for all grades
>> In our earlier survey, 73% of parents indicated a desire to return to school every day. 24% indicated a preference for the 'half on Monday, half on Tuesday' option. 3% indicated a desire for full-time at-home learning.
     With that in mind, we set about from the beginning to figure out a way to get everyone back every day as safely as possible. As you would expect, it involved building a master schedule that factors in social-distancing, a concept not usually on our summer radar. 
     To make it work, quite a few teachers have been asked to sacrifice their planning periods to help make the numbers work. Each and every one accepted the call graciously and I thank them.
>> Our mission is always going to center around the spiritual well-being of our students. Daily Mass will continue to be offered every morning in our Chapel before school at 7:30 a.m. on days when we do not have an All-School Mass.
     We also plan to begin the year by hosting and live-streaming weekly Masses in our theater. We will rotate in-person attendance while the rest watch in a classroom as well as periodically planning to celebrate Mass in our football stadium where all can gather. Needless to say, weather will play a huge role in that. (In addition to whatever other prayers you're saying for us, you can now officially add some for good weather.)
>> Life with or without a mask is a diocesan decision. We have a current plan that we will implement on Day 1, a plan that will be reviewed every two weeks and subject to change as the impact of the virus does. 
     In short, to begin with, masks are required by all when entering, exiting or moving about the building. Students/teachers may switch to shields only when seated in the classroom and only if they so choose.  
     When the situation improves (but not yet), the Diocese hopes to implement a phase where when all are settled and seated in a classroom, masks/shields can be removed for instruction. And we dream of the day when we need none at all.
>> Temperatures of everyone entering the building will be taken daily in the entrance hallway. 100.4F or above is the line over which one may not cross. Anyone with a fever at that mark is encouraged to seek medical help from your family doctor but must stay at home for 72 hours after the fever breaks (without help from medicine.)
>> The cafeteria routine will of course change. Because Pedestal Foods is requiring their cashiers to change gloves after every cash transaction, all families are being encouraged to check out the "MySchoolBucks" program ( ) where you can add money in advance to a student's account.
     NOTE TO NEW FAMILIES: To set up your account, you will need your child's STUDENT ID#. Please contact our Cafeteria Manager, Joanna O'Brien for assistance.
>> Because of limited class sizes, student schedule change requests won't be nearly as easy as in the past, if they can happen at all. Schedule change requests must come with parent approval. Contact Mrs. Swenson.
>> This isn't super critical but worth mentioning. I don't want to insult anybody but on a good day, a guy's tie is filthy and the perfect collection site for germs of all kinds. So, for at least first semester, we are waiving the tie requirement for male teachers/students.
>> Speaking of things to wear, we are not requiring a uniform mask/facial covering/shield but it is our expectation they will be appropriate, non-political and non-offensive. We will have a large supply of extra masks and a limited supply of extra shields.
>> For months now, school cleanliness has been at the top of our list. High-touch areas are cleaned throughout the day. Classroom desks will be cleaned before each new class sits down. Restrooms / locker rooms will be routinely cleaned by experts in the field using methods both chemical and mechanical and not available to us in the day-to-day. 
>> Nothing outweighs personal hygiene. New hand sanitizer stations are being installed all over the place along with additional no-touch bottle-fill water fountains. 
>> Everyone has encountered the five questions you have to answer before entering a variety of places. We are asking you to keep them in mind every day and if there's a "YES" in your student's life, please keep them home. They'll get caught up. 
>> Should a student test positive, families need to let us know. The Hamilton County Health Dept. has set expectations for how long to quarantine if one has a positive test. They also have expectations for how long to quarantine if you live with someone who has a positive test. Temporary at-home learning would then kick in. 
>> Notre Dame is hiring a part-time nurse who will be on campus every morning.
>> Where possible, our hallways are being converted to one-way flow to help. Yes, it may involve a longer route to class but all doable ... with the added benefit of helping everyone get in their steps.  
Recently I was thinking back to when we first announced we'd be home for a while - two weeks I think was the plan back then. 
At that point, it felt like we were getting ready to tackle a multi-day snow blizzard of sorts. And then it got extended ... and then a little longer ... and then we just kissed it goodbye.
Still, truth be told, it wasn't that long ago that I'd have bet my retirement that we'd all be rolling back in to school here in a couple of weeks, thrilled to see one another, ready to crank up school the old-fashioned way. There was even about a week there when I spent time planning in my head a huge "Welcome Back Party" out on the football field, with music and ice cream, hot dogs and hugs, lots of hugs. 
Needless to say, that's not what I've outlined above. 
Oh we'll have that party for sure. I don't know when exactly, but we will gather together and we will celebrate and we will extinguish that candle that still burns in the chapel. But until then, we live the life we've been given - as smartly and safely as each of us is able. For some, the smart play is at home; for others, a different path feels right. 
I work here because Notre Dame has always been a family but maybe now more so than ever. 
If I let you know we had a family in need - perhaps a fire or a tornado - it's been my experience folks come out of the woodwork to lend a hand and take care of one another.
Now, that taking-care-of-one-another-thing has an added dimension - it's about keeping kids at home if there's doubt ... or if there's confirmation, informing us so we can inform others. Thank you for caring - isn't that what it's really all about?!?!
Early this morning, the Superintendent asked me what our theme of the year was going to be. I hadn't really given that much thought until asked. This too is likely to change but PRAYERFUL FLEXIBILITY comes to mind.
Again, I thank you for your patience. I know waiting can be trying. Know that you are in our prayers, and thank you for keeping us in yours.
George Valadie