PHOTO: A student from Epiphany Catholic School in Lake City smiles while doing her work. (photo by St. Augustine Catholic/Woody Huband)
In a letter to parents on Thursday, July 23, Deacon Scott Conway, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of St. Augustine, announced that Catholic schools would begin the new school year on August 19 and not August 10 as initially planned.
Conway explained the schools are waiting for the delivery of specific sanitizing products, and instructional devices to upgrade the technology of the schools. The shipments are behind schedule due to the pandemic.
“We want to make sure we have done our due diligence in researching every way possible to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe and healthy in our school environments,” Conway said. “We are committed to the date of August 19 and will be opening our schools to face-to-face instruction on that day.”
A 300-page “Return to School Plan” was prepared in May for the 39 schools of the diocese. The plan calls for students, faculty and staff to wear masks. Frequently touched surfaces will be sanitized throughout the day, and buildings will be electrostatically sprayed daily, among the many measures. And visitors will not be allowed on campuses to limit the schools’ exposure from potential risk.
Conway explained that these protocols have been tested in the nine early learning centers of the diocese for the past five months. “Our early learning centers have not closed and have continued to provide services for families throughout the pandemic. We have had one student contract COVID-19, but because of all our health and safety protocols, there was no spread of the virus. We have had a few students test positive during our summer athletic workouts at the high school level, and we communicated with all parents and guardians regarding the positive tests. Again, we have had no spread of the virus because of the same health and safety protocols in place.”
The diocese is continuing to work closely with the Florida Department of Health, and the school plan will be adapted as needed. The school year is expected to end on May 28, 2021.