Parents of Catholic school students in the Philadelphia Archdiocese have been receiving information on the reopening of schools Sept. 1 even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now they’re getting to see and hear from school leaders through a series of new video messages.
Each of the 17 archdiocesan high schools is offering an approximately five-minute video featuring school administrators, faculty and student leaders describing what will be an unprecedented school experience this fall.
A main point of the messages is that students will attend their school using an “A/B” model of instruction. Half the students will attend in-person instruction in the school and the other half virtually at home for each class, and the groups will switch each day.
While in the school, everyone will have daily wellness checks, be required to wear face masks at all times, observe the signs in seating and hallways areas to maintain a social distance and use hand sanitizing stations located at numerous areas throughout the building.
Students will have access to a robust online instruction system, while parents will be able to monitor students’ progress through an online tool.
Archbishop Nelson Perez and Auxiliary Bishop Michael Fitzgerald, who oversees Catholic education in the archdiocese, also prepared a video message of prayer, encouragement and enthusiasm for the new school year. That video accompanies each school’s new video.
The video for each high school, filmed by the firm Bradley Digital, is available via the following links:
Immaculate Heart Sister Maureen McDermott, superintendent for secondary schools for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, discussed details of the school reopening plan in a new CatholicPhilly.com podcast – listen to it here.
For the 102 Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese, parents may choose either in-person or virtual instruction.
Many of those schools are seeing about half of their enrolled students for the fall choosing the online model, according to Andrew McLaughlin, secretary for elementary schools, who spoke at length in another CatholicPhilly.com podcast.
The students coming to school in person will rely on similar health and safety protocols as the high schools. But instead of a model where the high school students attend school physically on alternate days, grade school students will choose one of the hybrid models for instruction.
Those choosing to attend in person will be organized into cohorts in which they will stay together as a small group throughout the day and not change classrooms.
One advantage, according to McLaughlin, is that if a child does contract the COVID-19 virus, the students of the child’s cohort can be effectively isolated and quarantined, safeguarding the rest of the student population and mitigating the virus’ spread.
The elementary schools are communicating to parents now through a new 10-minute video similar to that of the high schools.
In it, Archbishop Perez and Bishop Fitzgerald offer their messages and are joined by a parent, principal, teacher and school administrator discussing details and concerns from each of their unique perspectives.
Getting the students, whether secondary or elementary, to their schools via buses remains an unresolved matter.
Although public school districts are required by state law to provide bus transportation to Catholic schools within their district, many of the districts in the region are providing virtual instruction and, therefore, no busing.
That leaves nonpublic school parents idling as to whether they can rely on bus transportation this fall.
The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is calling on Catholics to contact their state senator and state representative as well as Gov. Tom Wolf to urge public school districts to provide funding for nonpublic students.
Jason Budd, deputy secretary for government relations for the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education and acting president of Bishop McDevitt High School said, “Catholic school parents do ‘double-civic duty’ when it comes to the public school funding formula. They pay their property and school taxes, and by sending their children to tuition-based schools, they do not siphon away resources from public schools and public school students. These ‘equitable services,’ including transportation and nursing resources, are their rights as citizens of the commonwealth.”
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