Diocese’s Catholic Schools Offer ‘Safest Five-Day a Week in School Plan’

By Colleen Rowan
WHEELING—The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s Catholic schools are committed to getting their students back in the classroom for the 2020-2021 school year.
“We will be going back to the safest five-day a week in school plan,” Catholic Schools Superintendent Mary Ann Deschaine assured parents in a July 27 letter.
Families, she said, will know their individual school plans for the fall by Aug. 3, and details will be given directly to all families by the principal.
Plans may vary slightly from school to school based on regional guidance, Deschaine said. “If that safest way means our students need to wear masks and stay distanced throughout the building, we are up to the task,” she said.
The diocese’s six high schools and 18 elementary and grade schools across the state are finalizing their individual amended opening plan with county health departments to enable face-to-face learning. Throughout the last four months, Deschaine said, the diocese’s Catholic Schools office has been focused on recommendations and guidelines from worldwide, federal, state, and local experts. “Like our parishes, our schools’ plans reflect that,” she said.
In her letter, Deschaine notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly” supports students returning to the school building. A recently released statement from the AAP states, “All policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”
Deschaine said this is in line with the position of the diocese’s Catholic Schools office. “Further, because we are Christ-centered, be reassured every choice we make, and plans we develop are prayerfully made with our students’ success and well-being in mind,” she said. “We are a strong Christian family guided by our faith.”
The start of the school year in West Virginia was pushed back to Sept. 8 in an emergency order issued earlier this month by Gov. Jim Justice in response to an increase of COVID-19 cases in the state.
In her letter, Deschaine said the AAP recommends that Catholic schools’ plans be “flexible and nimble.”
“We will constantly be re-evaluating the health and safety measures in our buildings,” she said. “We will also be able to turn on a dime and adapt to a remote learning environment if we must.”
Read more about the upcoming academic year for the diocese’s Catholic schools in the Aug. 7 edition of The Catholic Spirit.