Archbishop Ryan prevailing 1-0 over Archbishop Wood for the Philadelphia Catholic League girls’ soccer championship Oct. 26, 2019 at Ramp Playground in Northeast Philadelphia. In a Sept. 25 announcement, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced it would resume interscholastic athletic competitions, revising an Aug. 24 decision to suspend sports as a new academic year began amid the ongoing COVID pandemic. (Photo by D’Mont Reese)

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s 17 high schools are set to resume interscholastic athletic competition while continuing to strictly follow health and safety guidelines.

The archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education and the Faith in the Future Foundation announced the decision in a statement issued Sept. 25.

The information was also communicated to school families in a Sept. 25 letter signed by I.H.M. Sister Maureen L. McDermott, Ph.D., superintendent of secondary schools for the Philadelphia Archdiocese, and Irene Horstmann Hannan, CEO of Faith in the Future.

A detailed athletic safety plan providing “guidance, protocols and requirements” for all schools will be completed shortly, according to an additional archdiocesan message.

On Aug. 24, the archdiocese advised that its high schools throughout the five-county region would opt out of interscholastic athletic competition for the fall season. That decision was made after review of multiple factors, including local and state guidelines, recommendations from county health departments in effect at that time, and pandemic-related statistics in the region.

The move was also reflective of a primary focus on launching the school year safely by utilizing a hybrid instructional model to ensure academic excellence.

In the weeks since, “school administrators … worked closely with senior leadership from the Office of Catholic Education and Faith in the Future to meticulously study pandemic metrics, guidelines, and school COVID profiles as part of our continuous assessment process,” said Sister Maureen.

Following a thorough evaluation of “all possible factors,” including “the successful opening of our schools,” administrators “believe the environment has changed for the better over the past month,” she said.

Sister Maureen said that archdiocesan school administrators “understand and value the importance of athletics as part of the program of formation within our high schools.”

She noted that they were grateful to archdiocesan school communities “for their trust and support while we appropriately deliberated how to bring back athletic programs with a commitment to safety in these unprecedented times.”

Fifteen archdiocesan high schools are members of the Philadelphia Catholic League. Bishop Shanahan High School competes in the Ches-Mont League, and Pope John Paul II High School in the Pioneer Athletic Conference.