There’s a popular phrase, “If you stay ready, you won’t have to get ready.” That’s pretty much how the administrators and staff of Villa Maria School plan to operate this fall semester.

Schools across the country are pondering how or if they will reopen this fall, amid COVID-19. Facilitators for Villa Maria School are looking to continue exactly what they’ve done from the beginning.

“Throughout the extended school closures due to the pandemic we have continued to provide services to all of our K-8th grade students,” said Associated Administrator Aggie Callahan. “Since March 30, we have been implementing virtual learning as well as telehealth services with our students and families. We have continued to provide counseling, speech-language and occupational therapies using our telehealth Zoom platform. Residential students have received these services while remaining in their units and day students have been accessing them from home, some with the help of our issued Chromebooks and iPads.”

Villa Maria School is a non-public special education school located in Timonium, Maryland serving students with emotional challenges from across the state. The facility serves children who live at Catholic Charities’ St. Vincent’s Villa program as well as day students from the community whose challenges make integration in traditional classrooms unmanageable. Students from 14 of the 24 jurisdictions in Maryland are enrolled in six elementary and six middle school classrooms.

The school’s tentative plan is to begin a hybrid in-person/virtual education delivery on August 26. Residential students will receive in-person instruction in the school classrooms assigned by unit Monday through Friday. Day students will continue to receive virtual learning and telehealth services until Baltimore County Schools open for in-person instruction. At that time, Villa Maria School will reopen for in-person instruction for all students.

When the school’s doors reopen, Callahan said, it will follow the CDC guidelines as well as a comprehensive guide provided to schools by Maryland State Department of Education. Villa Maria School will implement strict PPE and cleaning practices with staff as well as setting up classrooms to allow for social distancing.

While the school building has been closed, Callahan said, she and her colleagues have spent a lot of time and resources on refurnishing the school with desks, tables, chairs and soft foam seating that is easy to keep clean and sanitized.

“I continue to be impressed, humbled and grateful to our staff for their ability to adapt and remain flexible as we work to serve our students during such challenging times,” she said.