St. Mary Star of the Sea, Chicago Catholic school open since August, shares blueprint for success

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Friday, February 5, 2021
Chicago Catholic school open since August shares blueprint for success
Saint Mary Star of the Sea school has been operating successfully despite a high rate of COVID-19 cases in the community it serves.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Multi-tasking has become a way of life for many Catholic schools teachers. Teaching in person and online - mixed in with making sure students follow strict COVID protocols - is now part of the job.

"At first I thought I never was going to do this at my age, you get used to it and everyone is very supportive," teacher Rose Evans said.

St. Mary Star of the Sea is located on the city's Southwest Side in a neighborhood with one of the highest COVID rates. Yet the school has been open for in-person learning 5 days a week since August.

"We have been blessed, we have kept protocol and we have not had any student or teacher to student transmission," Principal Candy Usauskas said.

Usauskas said the first week of school was devoted to learning the strict protocols: keeping 6 feet of distance, mask wearing, front-facing desks, wearing gloves if sharing supplies and constantly cleaning.

"After each washroom break, we sanitize the bathroom and after lunch we sanitize the desks," she said.

Usauskas said it all has become second nature for teachers and students.

"With the protocols in place, I feel safe coming to work every day," teacher Mary Ann Delasso said.

St. Mary Star of the Sea teachers said in-person learning has paid off, and standardized test scores have increased this year.

"Our teachers help us with answers we don't understand," 3rd grader Kayla Madera said.

While this school has been able to do in-person learning successfully, it does help that the student population is less than 200 kids, which isn't the case for many Chicago Public Schools.