Each of the 15 Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools is ready to reopen for the 2020-2021 Academic Year.
In just a few days, on Aug. 17, 2020, the students will be returning to the classroom for a fresh start for in-classroom instruction. Naturally, the return to school comes in the midst of the global COVID-19 Pandemic so the first day may look different than in the past but the joy of returning will be real for teachers, students and parents alike. An estimated 85 percent of parents requested in-school classes, while 15 percent prefer the virtual option.
While everyone will be wearing face masks or coverings, and there will be enforcement of social distancing at every opportunity, the schools have been transformed to ensure each student receives the quality Catholic education they deserve.
Using a comprehensive reopening plan from the Diocese Department of Catholic Education as a basis, each school has its own reopening plan to reflect its unique situation. These factors include: school layout; arrival and dismissal procedures; a reimagining of the use of indoor spaces including classrooms; the implementation of the student cohort model which minimizes the interaction of students; health checks; alternative learning opportunities; comprehensive cleaning protocols; and so much more.
The introduction of the Diocesan School Reopening Plan opens with a statement from Father John Belmonte, SJ, Superintendent of Catholic Education: “Over the past four months, we have learned in a deeper way, the value and importance of our Catholic Schools. As we prepare to reopen our schools, let us remain focused on Christ who is the reason for our schools, the reason we teach, and the reason why we will gather, prudently and safely.”
All Diocesan Catholic schools will offer an alternative at-home learning opportunity for students in high risk populations. Those who have chosen synchronous at-home learning, do have the freedom to switch to traditional face-to-face learning during the school year. Those decisions will be made with the school principal. In addition, if a student needs to quarantine at home, this at-home learning option will be available to that student until he or she can safely return to school.
In preparation for reopening, teachers and staff returned to St. Elizabeth Catholic School in Naples Aug. 4, 2020. There, Principal Maria Niebuhr reviewed safety protocols and welcomed everyone with inspirational messages of optimism, faith, gratitude and teamwork. In addition, Father Casey Jones, Administrator of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish, gave a special blessing for everyone and then blessed every classroom with holy water. The school also offered an online opportunity for parents, students and supporters to sign-up and participate in a novena prayer for the teachers and students.
At St. John Neumann Catholic High School in Naples, the teachers are not the only ones preparing for a great school year. The House Captains (seniors who will serve as student leadership throughout the school year) are hard at work making sure that the Salesian Spirit is shining through all the adjustments being made to ensure the campus remains a place that is a home, a school, a Church and a playground.
Meanwhile, St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton is installing social distancing decals throughout the campus with inspirational messages to live by, such as: Pray, Learn, Give, Obey, Forgive, Respect, Honesty, Gratitude and more.
St. Mary Academy in Sarasota is offering its students the opportunity to purchase facemasks emblazoned with the school logo, enhancing the shared experience and the sense of community for everyone.
Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota got creative when planning to ensure social distancing. The school quickly raised the money to install outdoor academic spaces – two large tents, with tables and chairs, will be used for both classes and for the lunch period and provide some comfort from the elements.
These are just a few of the examples of the monumental effort being taken to reopen the Diocesan Catholic School on Aug. 17. To learn more about Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools, please visit www.dioceseofvenice.org/education.