Message from Executive Director
Catholic Schools Are Ready
By Christopher Healy
No matter your age, or whether you are single, married, or with or without children, there has been no other issue that has so transfixed our society than the safe return of children to a regular, in-class education. For the majority of parents who send their children to a public school, the issue is whether they are able to put their kids on a school bus with a sense of confidence that some form of learning can occur safely and without interruption.
To that end, Connecticut’s Catholic schools have been working earnestly to provide in-class instruction five days a week for the 2020-21 school year. And while Catholic schools will also offer remote options where appropriate and as requested by parents, they remain steadfast in their commitment to a safe, vigorous educational classroom experience with minimal interruption.
Many parents with children in public schools, who are not satisfied with the specific learning model being offered whether it be hybrid, remote or in-class, are now reaching out to Catholic schools about enrolling their children, regardless of their religious affiliation.
The uncertainty about our public education system makes it easy to see why many parents are now exploring Catholic education. The Lamont administration initially sent a strong signal that returning to the classroom was essential to protecting the rights of children, to fostering their educational, as well as social and emotional development. That was quickly modified to allow individual school districts to chart their own path. The state Department of Education would offer guidelines, but each district was still responsible for figuring out a plan.
Quickly a majority of districts moved toward a hybrid model, which requires each student to spend two consecutive days in a classroom with the remaining three days spent learning remotely. Each class is essentially split in two with one attending Monday and Tuesday and the other Thursday and Friday with Wednesday being closed for cleaning of all school facilities. Other districts are moving forward with a total commitment to in-class instruction five days a week, and a handful, most notably New Haven, have deferred to a total remote format.
Local officials at Connecticut’s Catholic schools have made the same investments and implemented the protocols needed to give parents total confidence that their children are socially distanced. Given that the size of a Catholic school classroom is, on average, half of that of a public school, children and teachers will have sufficient space to teach and learn safely.
Disruption of this carefully orchestrated plan can occur quickly, if a COVID 19 infection is reported by a parent or teacher. And while schools are trying to cut the size of their classes to ensure distancing, a quarantine action is more likely in a large school setting or on a crowded bus. Catholic schools classrooms, by their nature, are smaller, and thereby reduce (but do not eliminate) the risks.
Another reason parents may find Catholic schools a better option is simply the requirement that one parent must be home during the three days of the remote learning that the hybrid model requires. We respect that parents are their children’s most important teachers and that is why we enlist them in our remote learning efforts, but a parent shouldn’t have to choose between working and providing educational supervision unless all reasonable options have been exhausted.
Teachers and staff of Catholic schools are dedicated professionals who work with their administrators to make every day of learning special, safe, and a building block for the next day of learning. This collaborative spirit is reflective of Catholic teachings, to offer both educational instruction and spiritual guidance to our students. Since the COVID 19 pandemic became of the focus on our lives, many of us have relied on our faith more than ever – to seek counsel from our church leaders and ask God for his love and guidance.
Protecting our children is a solemn obligation, whether or not we are parents, and the men and women of our Catholic school systems are ready and eager to return to their vocation with purpose and confidence. Our students are equally excited about coming back to see their friends, to embrace the direction Catholic schools provide, and make the most of this experience.
There are no guarantees in any situation but one can be reasonably confident that risks are minimized in Catholic schools, given the small classroom size and large school dimensions, the caliber of people charged with carrying out daily instruction, and the effective communication practiced among school officials.
It’s during these times when our faith is tested, that the dedicated and selfless servants of Christ emerge to lead the way. Our teachers, students and parents are eager to return to school and collectively resolve to make the Catholic school experience safe, secure and educationally second to none.