Catholic Community Schools is moving forward with in-person learning this fall, scheduled to begin Sept. 1 in all CCS elementary schools and Sept. 8 at Cathedral High School, it announced in an Aug. 12 news release.
The decision follows Gov. Tim Walz’s announcement July 30 allowing public school districts to determine what model of instruction they will use in light COVID-19 concerns and after months of planning and preparation by CCS school leaders.
“Student and staff safety and addressing the holistic needs of our students to optimize learning has been the priority throughout our planning,” said Scott Warzecha, CCS president. “There is a clear consensus from both education and medical groups: We must keep in mind not only the risks associated with COVID-19 for in-person school programs, but also the known challenges and consequences of keeping students out of school.”
While distance-learning was largely successful within CCS over the course of the school closure during the spring of 2020, the news release said, CCS leaders recognize that there is no substitute for in-person instruction when it comes to the quality of students’ academic learning.
“In-person learning plays an important role in our ability to support students’ social-emotional needs, including their mental and physical health and in mitigating the impacts of trauma,” said Erin Hatlestad, principal at St. Katharine Drexel. “We also recognize how disruptive school closures have been to families trying to maintain regular work schedules and manage household needs, including child care, while also facilitating distance-learning.”
“We have been planning and preparing the entire summer for school reopening,” added Bonnie Van Heel, principal at St. Francis Xavier Catholic School. “School spaces and classrooms have been re-configured and outfitted to meet safety precautions, and we are prepared and ready to responsibly and safely reopen our schools” said.
While Catholic Community School leaders are ready to open in-person learning at the beginning of the school year, the plan is fluid and will be flexible to accommodate distance learning or the hybrid model of in-person and distance-learning, according to CCS.
“Catholic Community Schools principals have been working closely to develop reopening plans to ensure the safety of our students, families and faculty and staff,” said Paula Leider, principal of All Saints Academy in St. Cloud, while at the same time working to preserve the educational experience “that we previously offered and bring even more depth to our curriculum through attending to the unique needs of our students caused by the pandemic.
“We will continue this commitment to working together to problem solve as the landscape of education in a pandemic continues to change,” she said.
Bishop Donald Kettler sent a letter to the principals of all Catholic schools in the diocese earlier this month outlining a process for reopening. The process, done in consultation with the diocese’s Catholic Education Ministries office, requires schools to submit action plans for reopening for the bishop’s review and approval.
CCS is a consolidated school system in the St. Cloud metro area, with the following participating schools: All Saints Academy (St. Cloud), Cathedral (St. Cloud), Holy Cross (Pearl Lake/Marty), St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (St. Cloud), St. Francis Xavier (Sartell), St. Joseph (St. Joseph); St. Katharine Drexel (St. Cloud), St. Mary Help of Christians (St. Augusta) and St. Wendelin (Luxemburg/St. Augusta).