By Colleen Rowan
WHEELING—While the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is mandated by the state to delay its start of the academic year until Sept. 8, “leave no doubt your WV Catholic schools are ready to reopen,” Diocesan Superintendent Mary Ann Deschaine assured families in a July 22 letter.
“It is important to note each of our 24 schools have prepared a plan that has been approved not only by our schools’ office, but also the individual county health departments,” she said. “Remain assured our decisions throughout this time and in the future focus on the safety of our students, teachers, and staff. We will continue to rise and emerge as a stronger Catholic school family.”
Plans for reopening are designed to keep everyone as safe as possible, she said, being mindful of individuals and respectful to others like the diocese’s parishes, which based their safety measures on guidance by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local health authorities.
“Throughout this historic moment, we remain forward thinking and not intimidated by unknowns,” Deschaine said. “We remain realistic knowing that problems occur, but as we instill in our students, we know those problems are challenges that need innovative solutions and call upon our strong faith.”
Earlier this month, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced his order pushing back the start of the school year in response to the increase in COVID-19 cases in West Virginia. At a July 8 press briefing, the governor announced that he and state education leaders are targeting Sept. 8 as the tentative date to resume student instruction in school buildings in all 55 counties across West Virginia.
Because of the state’s emergency order delaying the opening of schools, Deschaine said that the NWEA assessment test for students in kindergarten-10th grades will be moved from August to early fall. The assessment identifies areas where a student may need extra help and enables staff to better develop prescriptive individualized educational plans, she said. The assessment test will be administered three times during the school year to assess progress and identify overall academic growth.
Deschaine also announced in her letter that plans for the summer enrichment program are being adjusted to meet state guidelines. Individual schools will contact their families with details. “These focus sessions will be subject area specific, and where needed will serve as a cross curriculum bridge program,” she said. “These times have been both unwanted and unpredictable. I am confident that we will come out of this even more resilient. We are not only making history, but also writing our story of adaptability, perseverance, empathy, and steadfast faith every step along this journey.”
The diocese’s Department of Catholic Schools is also continuing enhanced e-learning and distance engagement trainings for teachers in each building, Deschaine noted.
“As I have said countless times,” she said in closing her letter, “I am inspired by the unwavering commitment of our schools, their advisory boards, and parishes. Keep us in your prayers, as we know our God is an awesome God, and we need to lead with faith over fear.”
‘WV Catholic Schools Are Ready to Reopen,’ Superintendent Says in Letter
By Colleen Rowan