All eight Catholic archdiocesan high schools in Philadelphia will shift to all-virtual instruction beginning Monday, Nov. 23. In-person activities and athletic events will also be suspended.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia made the announcement Tuesday, Nov. 17 following a morning press conference by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) directing all high schools in the City of Philadelphia to shift to fully virtual instruction because of sharply rising rates of COVID-19 infection in the city.

Philadelphia is averaging 721 new COVID cases per day, and hospitalizations for the disease “have jumped 600 percent in the last seven weeks,” said Mayor Jim Kenney.

All Catholic parochial and regional elementary schools will continue to offer in-person instruction while following health and safety norms.

Each of the archdiocesan secondary schools are expected to inform parents about this change and its impact on the school communities in the coming week, according to an archdiocesan statement.

The archdiocese expects that by January 2021 the eight high schools will return to their prior models featuring in-person instruction operating on an A-B model, in which half the student body attends classes in school or at home alternately each day of the week.

Just last Friday, all Catholic elementary and high schools in Montgomery County announced they would shift to the all-virtual model beginning Nov. 23.

New COVID infections in the county have risen to 766 per day.

Based on input from the health departments serving Bucks and Chester-Delaware counties, the current models of instruction featuring a hybrid of in-person and virtual will continue for schools in those areas.

Archdiocesan and local school district administrators remain in regular communication with their local health departments, according to the archdiocese, ready to adjust to changing conditions.

The archdiocese said that since Catholic schools reopened in the fall with stringent health protocols, few cases have been reported.

Last summer all parish and regional elementary schools had received the archdiocese’s Catholic Schools Onward: Best Practices and New Opportunities plan and all archdiocesan high schools had received the Catholic High Schools Compass: Continuing Excellence in Catholic Education plan for the safe reopening of schools.

Those plans recognized “the essential need to be nimble in the face of the ever-evolving COVID-19 pandemic landscape,” the archdiocese said in its statement.

“It is our understanding that the recent surge in cases is due to increased social gatherings and the lack of the use of masks and social distancing,” the statement read. “With Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, there is a concern that there could be a further increase in cases. Archdiocesan schools have been encouraging students and families to follow safety protocols both in school and at home.”

The statement said the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education remains “steadfast in its promise to keep school families informed and to remain in dialogue with them.”

It offered the email address covid19@archphila-oce.org where parents and guardians could ask questions of OCE administrators.