By Colleen Rowan
WEST VIRGINIA—The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s schools will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-2020 academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Distance learning continues with the last official day of grading to be May 22.
Catholic Schools Superintendent Mary Ann Deschaine made the announcement in a letter to schools and families April 24.
“For the health and safety of all of us our buildings will remain closed for the rest of the academic year. Our teachers will continue distance learning lessons, assignments, and assessments, as they work with their classes in both an individual and group setting,” she says in the letter.
Deschaine’s announcement came just a few days after West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced the same action for the state’s public schools. A priority at this time, Deschaine says in her letter is working with principals and pastors concerning special events such as sacraments and graduations.
“Lots of ideas are being considered,” Deschaine said. “Each building will work out what is best for their community.”
The diocese’s six Catholic high schools—Central Catholic in Wheeling, Catholic Central in Charleston, Madonna in Weirton, Notre Dame in Clarksburg, Parkersburg Catholic, and St. Joseph Central Catholic in Huntington—have been honoring their seniors on social media and other ways since the schools closed in March. Central Catholic High School delivered “Congratulations Class of 2020” signs featuring each senior’s photo and name for the front of their homes along with a gift. Parkersburg Catholic’s Facebook page has separate posts congratulating each senior and noting where they are continuing their education. Madonna and St. Joseph Central have been posting Senior Spotlights on their Facebook pages.
On its Facebook page, Notre Dame invited the school community to share a special thought for the seniors. “Each day we will post a picture or two of our seniors. Write in the comments some words of encouragement, a special message for them, or a memory of them that you have. Let’s create some positivity for our seniors who are a really great group of young people,” the postings said.
Charleston Catholic Principal Colleen Hoyer said they are working on plans to honor their seniors. “We are looking at a variety of ways to celebrate this impressive group of young people both online and in other ways,” she said. “Some of them will be a surprise! The CCHS class of 2020 has brought such enthusiasm to everything they do, we want to send them off in the same manner.”
Deschaine said in her letter that she is also working with principals and faculty of all of the schools on ways to collect textbooks, devices and technology as well as distributing students’ personal belongings left in the schools. Scheduling of staff to return to their classrooms to complete year-end requirements is also being discussed.
The diocese’s schools have been continuing to provide students with remote education, and Deschaine commends them in her letter saying that they continue to exceed her expectations.
“Because we are a Christ-centered community, we are used to having faith over fear,” she says in the letter. “Thus, we were able to clearly and quickly prioritize what we needed to do for our students to adjust and succeed.”
The consensus of recent video conferences with advancement directors was Catholic schools are thriving despite the separation from the bricks and mortar building, Deschaine notes, evident by the numerous photos, videos, and posts about “our creative, challenging, and impressive curriculum.”
Throughout this pandemic, Deschaine has continuously commended the students, teachers, and parents for their commitment to continuing Catholic education in the home.
Catholic Schools Staying Closed for Rest of Academic Year
By Colleen Rowan