Skip Navigation


Diocese of Richmond Office of Catholic Schools

Will Resume In-person Classes on

August 24 RICHMOND, VA


The Diocese of Richmond Office of Catholic Schools will begin the 2020-2021 academic year with in-person instruction five days per week on Monday, Aug. 24. “For the most part, we are so different than the public school system. Our size is really what is allowing us to be able to do this,” said Kelly Lazzara, superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Richmond. “We’ve been able to look at our classrooms and say, ‘How can we adjust? How can we maintain a six-foot distance or even down to a three-foot distance with wearing masks and still really provide them with an in-person instruction?’” Diocesan Catholic schools were required to establish preparedness plans based on the “Phase Three Guidance for Virginia Schools” released by Governor Northam and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Council for Private Education (VCPE). While day-to-day operations at each school will differ slightly, requirements for all diocesan schools include implementing a health screening process for staff, students and visitors; enforcing physical distancing; and reinforcing the use of face coverings for all staff persons and students. Most diocesan Catholic schools applied for the Intent to Vary, meaning each school submitted an application to maintain a physical distance between three and six feet in classrooms to the local health department and the VCPE. The distance between students could be as few as three feet apart when space is limited; however, a six-foot distance will be maintained wherever possible. Additionally, all diocesan schools have created a health mitigation plan. Committees at each school will continue to meet throughout the school year to discuss plans and evaluate progress. More information on the reopening of diocesan Catholic schools is available at

Please click on the question below to expand. 

Kelly Lazzara (Superintendent of Schools, Richmond Diocese), Sr. Mary John Slonkosky, O.P. (Principal), Melinda Monk Salken (School Health Coordinator - Graduate Studies background in Epidemiology, the study of health and disease as it pertains to specific populations), Teri Smith (Admissions Coordinator), Barbara Flores (School Counselor), and Shawn Lazar (Facilities Manager).

Contact: Hampton, Virginia Health Department-  Kevin Pearce, Emergency Coordinator, with the Hampton and Peninsula Health Department.  

FACT SIS, student information system. All staff and response team members have access to this information and this information will be kept current (live).       

Email, school website, social media, phone calls, text messages, and weekly Wednesday folders will be used to disseminate information.

 Teachers and staff will be trained during the week of August 17, 2020 by Melinda Monk Salken and designated staff by the SMSS COVID-19 Response Team on proper hygiene and new safety protocols. Teachers and designated staff will be trained by Barbara Flores, our school counselor on social and emotional impacts of reopening. 

The COVID-19 Response Team for SMSS will communicate with the Richmond Diocese and VDH health officials in accordance with state and local laws. We will communicate with all stakeholders while adhering to privacy laws (maintaining confidentiality in accordance with ADA). Saint Mary Star of the Sea School has a COVID-19 Response Team and a Health Coordinator, Mrs. Melinda Monk Salken, licensed in health education who is working with Diocean staff as well as state and local medical officials, including VDH.  SMSS will have access to all necessary PPE for the Health Coordinator, health clinic, and staff as needed. SMSS will continue to operate with health clinic services.       Our school counselor, Barbara Flores, is working on a plan to address social and emotional learning for all students. All students will have access to counseling services (counseling services for students is provided with an “opt out”, if parents or guardians wish to do so). 

 During the teacher work week (August 17), all staff will be trained on the SMSS COVID19 Prevention Plan. Health Coordinator, Melinda Monk Salken, will lead this training. Upon returning to school for 2020-21, all students will be trained on the new safety protocols and proper hygiene practices.  

Information will be sent home to families to communicate our plan. SMSS COVID-19 Prevention/Mitigation Plan will include:       

  • Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
  • Use of cloth face coverings
  • Staying home when sick
  • Encouraging physical distancing
  • Entering and exiting school, and hallway procedures. 

Saint Mary Star of the Sea School will maintain adequate supplies to promote healthy hygiene. This includes soap, hand sanitizer, and cleaning materials.  Signs will be posted around Saint Mary Star of the Sea School promoting healthy hygiene and handwashing. This includes all bathrooms and drinking fountains. 

  • Classrooms will be modified to maximize space between students. All extra furniture will be removed from the classroom.
  • The hallway floors will contain guidance for physical distancing and direction of flow for walking.
  • We will use extra classrooms and space to allow for students to spread out. 
  • Students will be in their static classes for co-curriculars [technology, music, Spanish, and P.E.] and will include appropriate physical distancing and cleaning methods.
  • Lunch procedures have been modified to reduce contact with surfaces and maximize space between students and among students. Procedures include fewer students at each lunch table (3 feet distance minimum); assigned lunch seating for all students; use of individual paper placemats to reduce surface contact and assist with cleaning and disinfecting between grade-level lunches. All food, including snacks, will be pre-ordered. Disposable food service items will be used. Non-disposable food service items will be handled with gloves and washed with and disinfected by the cafeteria manager. Individuals will wash their hands after glove use. The cafeteria manager and staff will continue to follow standard operating procedures that ensure safe and effective handling of all food and food service related equipment. These procedures will be reviewed and staff retrained as necessary. 
  • Recess- homeroom teachers will arrange for recess at a time different from other classes. Physical distancing will be maintained between staff and students during this time. Each class will have their own set of playground equipment which will be sanitized after use. 
  • Gatherings- gatherings of students and teachers will be limited according to guidelines. Nonessential visitors, volunteers, and external groups will be limited.  
  • Mass- small groups of students will participate in Mass in the school chapel or gym, following physical distancing protocol and the wearing of masks as appropriate. Other students will view Mass while livestreaming the Mass to the rest of the students in their classrooms. 

   Students will be checked for temperature and asked the specified medical history questions by a designated staff member as they arrive at school in cars. Staff will self-check for temperature and the screening protocol given by the VDH Phase II Guidelines, before coming to school. 

  • Immediately isolate the ill person from others and ask that person to wear a facemask or cloth face covering.
  • Determine if the person needs medical care. Contact Melinda Monk Salken, Shawn Lazar, or Shawn Roberts.
  • If the person is experiencing any medical emergency or emergency warning signs of COVID-19, including, but not limited to, trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face, call 911 and notify the operator that the person might have COVID-19.
  • Most cases of COVID-19 are mild and do not require medical care. In these situations, the ill person can self-isolate at home. If the person is not severely ill, but medical care seems indicated, a healthcare facility OTHER THAN a hospital emergency room should be used (if possible) and contacted prior to arrival.
  • Establish procedures for safely transporting anyone sick to their home or to a healthcare facility. 
  • SMSS Shawn Lazar (facilities manager) has reviewed and updated our cleaning and disinfecting protocols that include frequently touched surfaces, schedules for increased cleaning, routine cleaning,and disinfection; ensuring adequate cleaning supplies, correct usage and storage. 
  • We will provide adequate hand sanitizer inside classrooms.
  • We will ensure that all students have necessary supplies to avoid sharing as much as possible. Shared equipment will be minimal and included in cleaning protocols as outlined on the VDH website.
  • SMSS Shawn Lazar (facilities manager) and Atlantic Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., maintains our HVAC. They have checked and cleaned filters and will continue to do so per their contract.
  • All water systems have been checked and are operational. Drinking fountains will be used only to fill personal cups and individual drinking containers/bottles. Directions will be posted. If possible, water refill stations will be installed at the water fountains. 
  • We will not be hosting any gatherings over 50 (as of August 1, 2020) and there will be no field trips, until further notice.
  • We will limit the amount of volunteers in the building, and all volunteers will be given a medical check before entering the building.  
  • The Diocese of Richmond has implemented sick leave policies and practices that enable faculty, staff and students to stay home or self-isolate when they are sick or have been exposed. We will also offer telework options when possible.
  • The Diocese of Richmond has developed the policies for return to class/work after COVID-19 illness.   We have instructional aides and other staff that have been trained as back-up staff to ensure continuity of operations.
  • We will have appropriate options for those students and staff at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.        
  • We will separate and isolate those individuals who present with symptoms in the  conference room across from the health clinic. We will ask that person to wear a facemask or cloth face covering. We will determine if the person needs medical care.
  • If the person is experiencing any medical emergency or emergency warning signs of COVID-19, including, but not limited to, trouble breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, or bluish lips or face, we will call 911 and notify the operator that the person might have COVID-19.
  • We will contact the parents/legal guardians/spouse of any students or staff who display symptoms of COVID-19.  
  • We will clean and sanitize areas used by individuals who display symptoms.    
  • The principal or dean of students/health coordinator will communicate with the local health department to initiate public health investigation, contact tracing and consultation on next steps.   

    We will follow the guidelines of the Diocese of Richmond and VDH/local authorities if severe conditions arise. We will determine if we need to shut down the entire school, or isolate certain grade levels, students, staff, or buildings per authority guidance. 

Our Admissions staff is available to schedule virtual, live digital or in-person tours and answer any questions: 757-723-6358.  


Office Manager & Admissions: Teri Smith,

Marketing & Recruitment: Maritza Davila,

Low-Country Boil