Reopening Catholic school buildings: Plan, prepare and respond

By Dr. Daryl Hagan
Superintendent of Catholic Schools

For the first time, parents might actually be looking forward to summer more than their children. I also believe parents want and need to know about the start of the new school year. The following will provide parents, students, faculty, staff and parishioners a roadmap as to where we are today and the plan to reopen our Catholic school buildings.

The plan begins with a focus on two key re-entry dates: July 1, 2020 (school buildings are scheduled to reopen per the Governor’s executive order), and Aug. 5, 2020 (the first day of scheduled instruction for several Catholic schools). The goal is to start school within the buildings on time in August with all recommended health and safety actions in place.

To assist me in carrying out this monumental task – where the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff are at the core of every decision – Bishop Joseph M. Siegel has asked that the Catholic Schools Office form a core committee to act as a clearinghouse to share best practices and clarify all state, local and diocesan directives as it relates to mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The core committee will expand as needed to seek direction and advice from experts in various fields.

We are not isolated in our desire to return to school buildings, where there exists genuine communities of faith. I, along with school administrators and the reopening committee, continue to collaborate with key organizations to seek the most up-to-date findings as well as best practices regarding COVID-19 and schools. The organizations we directly collaborate with include the Indiana Nonpublic Education Association, National Catholic Educational Association, diocesan attorneys, diocesan directors, diocesan chancellor, Indiana Department of Education, Indiana Catholic Conference, Indiana Catholic School Consortium, Catholic Charities – Diocese of Evansville, Youth First, Indiana High School Athletic Association, local educational leaders and health department officials.

Preparations and directives will not be a one-size-fits-all approach for schools. We understand the unique needs that vary from early learning students to high school students. With that said, we are expecting that schools will comply with a set of requirements (including the recently released CDC guidelines for schools) targeted at cleaning protocols, health checks, contact tracing, assessing risk, and implement social-distancing strategies for gatherings, classrooms and movement through the building.

Catholic schools will respond to this challenge and employ every measure we can to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff members. As we move through the summer months, I will provide updates on our efforts to reopen school buildings for the start of the new school year. I am grateful to be a part of a Catholic community that, through the intercession of Mary, remains rooted in the conviction that Catholic schools form students as missionary disciples who serve one another.