On the first day of school Aug. 31 at Mother Teresa Regional School in King of Prussia, a second-grade teacher and her students make good use of new portable, clear protective screens in the classroom, thanks to a collaboration of the Wayne-based Ambassador’s Fund for Catholic Education and West Chester-based Communications Test Design Inc.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s 71 suburban elementary schools are offering an extra layer of safety for in-school teaching because of sliding clear Plexiglas screens provided to every homeroom.

The partitions, which add to the protective measures designed by the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education’s Coronavirus Task Force, are the result of a local foundation-corporate collaboration in process since July.

The portable screens are funded through a grant of $165,000 reserved in June by the Ambassador’s Fund for Catholic Education for pressing school needs prompted by coronavirus restrictions. The Wayne-based charitable organization is underwriting the cost of materials to produce the screens.

The Ambassador’s Fund for Catholic Education is the successor name to the Archdiocesan Educational Fund founded in 1967 by the late Matthew H. McCloskey, Jr., building contractor and U.S. Ambassador to Ireland (1960-62).

The clear partitions allow teachers to remove their masks while teaching and interacting with their students. The student benefits from seeing the teacher’s facial expressions and hearing a teacher’s voice without muffling caused by the mask.

An additional special feature is the teacher’s ability to move the rolling screen directly to a student’s desk and safely speak with that student.

Each school is receiving 15 screens on average, and some as high as 30, for homerooms and special areas, totaling 1,200 spanning the four suburban counties. The partitions will also help the schools that host PREP classes (Parish Religious Education Program) or other religious education activities for Catholic students who do not attend the archdiocesan schools.

As of Sept. 4, all the screens had been delivered by CTDI to the schools.

The screens comply with state regulations, but officials in Chester County and Delaware County are not permitting teachers to remove their masks while using the protective barriers.

The cost of the labor to assemble the screens and transport them to the schools is underwritten by CTDI, Communications Test Design Inc., the West Chester-based global engineering company founded in 1975 by Gerald J. Parsons, along with his father, Don, and his brother Richard. Michael Parsons, an engineer and CTDI executive vice president, designed the screens and is managing the production process.

“Because the screens are so portable and lightweight, our teachers should find them even more appealing to use,” said Ambassador’s Fund president Matt McCloskey IV Aug. 12 as he viewed a prototype screen at SS. Peter and Paul School in West Chester. “It’s important to get our students back in school as soon as possible, providing we keep them and their teachers in a safe environment.

“This is our first collaboration with another funder, in this case a business, CTDI. I can’t think of a better use of our funds for this first venture. We all hope this extra protection of the screens gives both the teachers and the parents greater peace of mind.”

Federal funds unavailable to the archdiocesan suburban schools are expected to cover the cost of screens for the Catholic schools in Philadelphia. City school officials are requiring teachers to follow the same protective screen restrictions as those in Delaware and Chester counties.

***

For additional information about the Ambassador’s Fund for Catholic Education, contact Patricia Canning, director of grants management, at patricia.canning@comcast.net.