‘Real spirit of cooperation’: Elmhurst private school nears 100 days of in-person learning

ELMHURST, Ill. – The superintendent of Timothy Christian Schools in Elmhurst says in-person learning can work, and his campus is proof.

The pre-K through 12th grade private school has been holding classes in person since the school year began August 19. In 5 months, the school has reported 62 reported covid cases.

“Every person on payroll is doing a lot more than they bargained for. It’s a ton of work. It also costs a lot of money,” Superintendent Matt Davidson said. “It’s been quite an expenditure, and in our minds it’s totally worth it.”

Davidson says the school has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover plexiglass dividers for students’ desks and HEPA air filters in every classroom. The school has hired additional nurses and cleaning staff and have their own team of contact tracers. But Davidson says the expense and the effort are only part of the equation.

100 percent of teachers and 92 percent of students spend their days in the classroom, Davidson said.

“Really, I think what’s been paramount for us is a real spirit of cooperation with our community,” he said.

Except during lunch and outdoor recess, all 1,200 students in this pre-k through 12th grade environment are always required to wear masks — even during PE and band practice. The instruments have their own masks of sorts, and some, like saxophones, require an added layer of protection – the student must play it underneath a poncho.

“There’s never been anything like this while I’ve been alive so it was a little weird at first but I’ve been starting to get used to it,” 4th grader Madeline Rudman said.

“We have differing views on this right here at our school, but everyone has chosen to lock arms, dig their heels in and stick to the health plan for the purpose of staying in-person,” Davidson said.

Even with that commitment, Timothy Christian has still had covid-19 cases. The superintendent reports 62 since the beginning of the school year, 51 of them in students — 14 in the high school, 14 in the middle school and 23 in the elementary school. There are 11 cases reported among staff, which includes 3 full-time teachers. Davidson says they can’t rule out spread at the school, but most of those cases have come from home.

The contact tracing team has sent 150 students home to quarantine because they’ve had close contact with someone diagnosed with covid, but just two of those students quarantined have reported symptoms, Davidson said.

“Everyone’s fully recovered, so we’re thankful for that,” he said.

Students tell us this school year – even with its new rules and some risk – is a welcome change from remote learning.

“The year’s been great. Just to be able to come into school, interact with people – safely of course,” senior Josh Harris said.

“Between the cleaning and the masks and the plexiglass and the distancing, I felt comfortable sending them back,” parent and board member Yvonne Cruz said.

Their routine may be adjusted, but the mission remains unchanged.

“We do that for the glory of God,” Davidson said.