Bishop outlines COVID-related priorities, expectations for next Catholic school year

In a letter to Catholic school parents and families, Bishop Donald Kettler outlined a series of COVID-19 priorities and expectations for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

“We have so many reasons to be optimistic that students will learn and grow together in person, much as they did prior to the start of the pandemic,” he said in the Aug. 5 letter. “This will only be possible with continued diligence, trust and prayer.”

As part of their mitigation strategies, he wrote, Catholic schools will prioritize efforts to keep COVID-19 infections out of schools, prevent transmission in schools and support students and families during disruptions due to COVID-19.

“While the final details of school-opening guidance are still being determined, I can share with you several of the main features,” Bishop Kettler wrote, while stressing that the guidance reflects “the most current information available, and it remains possible that changing conditions could require adjustments in planning.”

At this time, he said he expects:

  • Schools will provide in-person instruction, activities and programming.
  • COVID-19 vaccinations are recommended, but will not be required, for eligible students and school staff.
  • Face masks will be optional for students and staff in school. Face masks will be required on school transportation due to federal mandates.
  • Parents will work with schools to screen students for signs and symptoms of illness, keep them home when sick, and seek testing or appropriate medical care before returning them to school.
  • Schools will report all known cases of COVID-19 to the Minnesota Department of Health, which is a legal requirement.
  • Schools will inform parents when their students are in close contact to known infected persons, and will utilize appropriate quarantine measures.
  • Parents and school staff will collaboratively support a culture of care and understanding that can work through the frustrations and hurt experienced in the pandemic.
  • Local conditions and needs may call for schools to enact further policies and requirements or changes to learning models. Schools will work with public health authorities, districts and the diocese throughout the school year as they consider such decisions.

“I realize there may be ongoing questions regarding mitigation strategies, procedures and practices in our schools,” Bishop Kettler said. “I ask for your patience as school leaders prepare to welcome back students and make necessary adjustments for them.”

According to the letter, information regarding specific practices in individual Catholic schools will be shared by principals. The diocese will coordinate final details of school opening guidance within the next few weeks.

“As your bishop, I want to be clear that my decision-making about our Catholic schools is grounded in the teachings and principles of our Church,” the letter added. “With respect to recommendations from authorities in government and health, they are studied and considered, but implemented only in ways that I believe are in harmony with our faith. I am committed to working with my staff, advisors, pastors and community leaders to see that our schools support nurturing, healthy and faith-filled environments.”

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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