Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Over 6,000 Catholic Schools in the US make Plans to Safely Open in the Fall


Catholic News Service reports that U.S. Catholic schools are tweaking their reopening plans for a worrisome fall term by consulting parents and training staff for face-to-face instruction in many cases but with distance-learning programs in place as well.

With only a month left of summer vacation and with enrollment season unfolding in the atmosphere of uncertainty, parochial and other private Catholic schools around the country are rolling out a variety of teaching approaches for the new school year.

And given the mixed results of last spring's rapid pivot to online education, a preference has been emerging for in-person instruction or for a hybrid blend of both virtual learning with partially reopened campuses.

"What I know about children and how they form relationships with adults, I don't think there is much doubt that it would be better in person," said Kathy Mears, interim director of the National Catholic Educational Association. "I also have no doubt that there are some really creative teachers out there who are going to figure out how to build those (online) relationships as best they can."

Both in person and virtual learning methods are set to be implemented in various forms as school communities decide on strategies that are certain to vary from region to region and are subject to mid-course change as the pandemic expands, impacting some communities more than others.

Mears told Catholic News Service recently the NCEA has begun collecting schools' reopening plans and safety protocols designed to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. There are more than 6,000 Catholic schools in the U.S., and many of those best practices plans will be shared among Catholic schools superintendents and principals nationwide through conference calls as the school year progresses.

Last year, students had the benefit of at least starting the school year in person and getting to know each other and the faculty face to face over a period of months before a national lockdown in March. It may prove a less than ideal situation wherever students are asked to start the next fall term online if forming trusting teacher-student relationships suffers.
(Here is an Video example from NH Catholic Schools)

"I am sure it will be more difficult the younger the students are," Mears said. "I know some Catholic school teachers have already been meeting their students via Zoom one on one before school has even started so that the kids will kind of know their teachers the first time they come together as a group online."

In addition, Catholic schools around the country that have posted their reopening plans online or shared them as news releases indicate several common modifications and safety protocols and a few novel ideas as well.

-- Many schools are planning to reopen with an option for both in-person classes on campus and virtual learning for families not ready to return their child to campus.

-- Across the board, schools have made an array of campus modifications to enhance social distancing, student traffic flow, mask wearing, safe drop-off and pickup procedures, temperature checks and enhanced air circulation, sanitation measures and professional cleaning services.

-- Schools are keeping children in age-related cohorts that will study and play together but not mingle outside their cohort to limit the spread of a potential infection, reducing the need to quarantine an entire student body in the event of an outbreak.

-- Parents and volunteers will be restricted from being on campus for the foreseeable future.

-- Some schools are offering one-time financial incentives for students transferring in from non-Catholic schools.
Source: Edited from https://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2020/catholic-schools-in-us-unveil-reopening-plans-for-worrisome-fall-term.cfm

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