Students will return to in-person classes when Catholic schools in the Diocese of Allentown reopen in late August.
The school experience will be different at first, because of required safety and health procedures, but there will be no change in the unwavering commitment to academic excellence in a faith-based environment.
“We are working to make each of our schools as safe as we possibly can,” said Dr. Brooke Tesché, Chancellor of Catholic Education. “It’s time to welcome everyone back to class.”
As required by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, masks will be worn by students, faculty and staff when they cannot be at least six feet from others. Where possible, schools will reconfigure classroom seating so that masks will not be needed during typical lessons.
There will be rigorous sanitizing of school buildings, new procedures to maintain distancing during non-lesson times, guidelines on student health screenings, and new procedures for activities and visitors.
Each school has created a Health and Safety Plan, showing the detailed steps that will be taken at that building to create a healthy and safe environment. These plans are now being reviewed by the diocesan Office of Education, which will provide feedback to make sure all schools are aligned on key points.
The plans will be posted on each school website, and will be communicated to students and parents by each school principal. Detailed schedules and procedures may vary at each school location, depending on local conditions.
Across the diocese, the watchwords for the new school year will be safety, presence, and growth, Dr. Tesché said. Safety of students, families and staff is paramount; physical presence of students is the best way for them to learn; and the personal growth of students, through a focus on educating the whole child, is foundational to Catholic education in the Diocese.
Parents will be partners in the success of the return-to-school plan, Dr. Tesché said. “Parents choose our schools because we share their values, and that makes them our natural partners in the education of their child,” she said.
She commended the diligent work of school leaders, in consultation with medical professionals, state education officials, and parents, in creating the return-to-school plans.
The decision to return to school in-person is based on the expectation that Pennsylvania will remain in the Green Phase of the Coronavirus response. Diocese schools also have drawn up contingency plans in the event the state moves back into the Yellow or Red phases.
“Given the ongoing uncertainties and regulations, we needed to be innovative to protect safety and health while continuing to provide our students with quality, faith-based education,” Dr. Tesché said. “Our teachers and administrators have risen to that challenge. Everyone is looking forward to resuming in-person learning this coming school year.”
The Diocese’s Catholic schools serve 9,700 students in seven high schools, 27 elementary schools and three special learning centers in Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill counties.