1 June 2021
Dear Colleague in Diocesan Education,
As this extraordinary school year draws to a close, I want you to know that you have my profound admiration and thanks for your hard work and dedication on behalf of our students, our schools and parishes, and our communities.
Catholic school teachers, administrators and staffs are the true heroes of this challenging time. Right from the beginning, amid much uncertainty and anxiety, you came to school every day out of dedication to your students and your profession. I am so grateful to you. You are the front-line heroes of the Diocese of Allentown.
Last summer, at school systems across our Diocese, there was understandable anxiety and uncertainty as people worked to determine how best to address the Coronavirus crisis. Looking back, all things considered, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that for Catholic school students, it turned out to be a very fulfilling year. Thanks to you and your colleagues, students had an extremely effective and satisfying educational experience.
As you know, all 38 schools in the five counties of the Diocese of Allentown were open all year for in-person learning. The vast majority of our students had in-classroom instruction five days a week for the entire academic year. While a handful of our schools needed hybrid schedules to maintain social distancing, most eventually found creative yet safe ways to move back to every-day, in-person instruction. In addition, you made it possible to offer every student a virtual learning option.
Demand for Catholic education was high this year. Nineteen of our schools had waiting lists at the beginning of the year. Most schools operated at maximum capacity, given the need for social distancing. In many places, we could have accepted far more students than we did, if we had the room to operate with adequate distancing.
The fact is, our schools were open for in-person learning when many others were not. There was a strong desire among parents for their students to be in the classroom, and parents were reassured by the meticulous planning and consultation with health professionals that went into the crafting of each school’s health and safety plan.
Another part of that demand, I believe, was the desire for Christ-centered, high-quality education offered in our Catholic schools. As you know, our students are held to high moral and academic standards. A rigorous focus on academics is the norm, supported by our commitment to staying true to our Catholic identity, the foundation and guiding force of all we do.
There were relatively few disruptions in our school schedules due to positive Coronavirus tests, and relatively few cases in our schools overall. Each time there was an occurrence, school leaders acted quickly to notify the appropriate authorities, and to take the appropriate steps, out of an abundance of caution and with a primary focus on the safety of our students, teachers and staff.
We must also recognize the parents of Catholic school students, who were our partners in safe and effective education. Hats off to our students as well. Some things about the year were not normal, of course, but by and large, students were cooperative and did their part. Imagine the memories they will have as they look back on this pandemic year in the future!
It is very gratifying to know that Catholic school students around the region are finishing this academic year successfully, and that we were able to offer our students uninterrupted, quality Catholic education.
With my deepest gratitude, and my prayers that you may have a restful and restorative summer break, I remain
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Alfred A. Schlert
Bishop of Allentown