Creating a Path Forward: School Reopening FAQs

Special to The Message

Editor’s note: In June, the Diocese of Evansville released “Creating A Path Forward: Catholic School's Consideration for Learning and Safe Schools.” This plan is designed to help school staffs and parents successfully and safely reopen diocesan school buildings to students this August. The plan was designed over several weeks during the early summer, and it integrates feedback from parents, educators, medical professionals and others.   

The Diocese of Evansville Catholic Education Office knows that parents have many questions about the start of the school year. Many of the frequently asked questions from parents about the reopening plan appear below; these FAQs were updated July 13.   

Diocese of Evansville Assistant Superintendent of Schools Michelle Priar, left, joins joins Coordinator of Student Services and School Information Systems Andrea Greaney, Superintendent Dr. Daryl Hagan and Diocese of Evansville Chancellor Tim McGuire for a July 9 virtual Q&A session on the 2020-2021 school year for school councils and reopening committees across the diocese. The Message photo by Tim Lilley

When do school facilities reopen?

All school facilities are now open.

When will the students return to school for the 2020-2021 school year?

There is a range of opening dates (see a specific school for opening) for students to return to the classroom, from Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020, through Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020.

What options will there be for families this school year?

Students will attend school within school facilities with new safety protocols in place and an emphasis on social distancing.

However, if a student needs to be quarantined, the school will provide extended learning. Students will use an extended-learning option temporarily and will still be connected to the student's school, teacher and classroom. This option will be used on a short-term basis only and must be approved by the principal. This option will also vary from school to school while considering the reasonableness of the request and feasibility of the resources available. For example, if school has started and a family member tests positive for COVID-19, the health department's recommendation is that all family members quarantine at home. This option will allow learning to continue with the least amount of interruptions possible. As already stated, this option will need to be pre-approved and is for those situations that are short-term in nature.

Note: At this time, Catholic schools within the Diocese of Evansville do not have a long-term virtual option for families.

Will masks be required to be worn at school?

Masks and social distancing are extremely important to help stop the spread of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In those instances where we feel social distancing is not going to be accomplished to the extent we feel necessary, like in the hallways, we do expect students to wear masks.

Will students celebrate the Mass during school?

Yes, students will celebrate Mass during the school day while following all diocesan guidelines regarding Mass.

What are your plans for school buses?

Families are encouraged, when possible, to transport their children to and from school. Students in Vanderburgh County who take advantage of the EVSC's bus service will be required to wear a mask while on the bus. There will be a seating chart, and we ask families to sit together when possible. EVSC is also redoing the routes so there will only be two students per seat. For families outside of Vanderburgh County, please contact your Catholic school to learn of any additional changes.

I am worried about the emotional state of my children. Will that be addressed?

Catholic school education is rooted in the conviction that we educate the whole child. We are working closely with Youth First and the other mental health providers. Counselors will be ready to assist students and families with making this transition. Catholic schools place a strong emphasis on community, and we will do all we can to promote genuine trust and collaboration among teachers, parents and students.

Will schools still provide after-school care for elementary students?

Yes, Catholic schools will be able to offer before- and after-school care for elementary students with the same safety and social distancing guidelines in place. Check with your local Catholic school to see what programs are available.

Will students be screened every morning?

We are asking all families to screen at home. Students must be fever-free (without fever-reducing medication) for 72 hours. Please do not send your child to school if they have any symptoms of COVID-19.

What about athletics?

We are phasing in athletic programs in compliance with IHSAA and the Diocesan Elementary Committee on Athletics. We are currently in Phase One.

What about students who have special needs?

We are working closely with parents who have children with special needs to answer any questions and to strive to meet their individual needs.

Will elementary students have recess?

Yes, students in elementary school will have recess and precautions will be taken to minimize the risk of the virus.