Catholic schools in the Diocese of Allentown will continue moving toward normal operations this fall by lifting the face covering requirement for students, teachers and staff.
In a letter to students, parents and educational staff around the Diocese, Dr. Brooke Tesché, Chancellor for Catholic Education, and Dr. Philip Fromuth, Superintendent of Catholic Education, noted that vaccine percentages in Pennsylvania continue to rise, and that the rate of virus transmission remains “Low” in all five counties of the Diocese.
However, schools will be ready to shift protocols if necessary to respond to any future changes in recommended safety and health guidance.
Anyone who still wants to wear a face covering will be permitted to do so in school, the letter said. Plans call for all schools to be open for full, five-day, in-person education. Virtual learning will not be an option that is offered routinely, but will be available in certain special cases.
“We thank you for your commitment to Catholic education and for your collaboration, cooperation and outstanding efforts throughout the 2020-21 school year,” the letter said.
Here is the full text of the letter:
Dear Diocesan Educational Community,
As we conclude an extraordinary school year of uncertainty and challenges due to the Coronavirus, we are filled with gratitude for the abundance of blessings the year provided. We thank you for your commitment to Catholic education and for your collaboration, cooperation and outstanding efforts throughout the 2020-21 school year.
We are encouraged as the vaccination percentages in Pennsylvania continue to rise and the Level of Community Transmission of COVID-19 is at a Low Level in all five counties of the Diocese of Allentown (Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill Counties) for the second consecutive week.
Our plans for the 2021-22 school year are to offer full, five day, in-person instruction in all of our schools. Students and staff will not be required to wear face coverings while at school. Students and staff who choose to continue to wear face coverings as a mitigation measure against COVID-19 will be allowed to do so. Please note that we cannot control what government entities may require of our students who ride public school buses, receive support services or participate in athletic activities involving other schools. Virtual education for the 2021-22 school year will be offered only in specific COVID-19 related situations such as quarantine or situations involving a long-term serious medical situation. Schools will again be able to use a limited number of Flexible Instruction Days for weather related or emergency related school closures.
We remain aware that we are still in a global pandemic and the future may bring changes. However, our plans are to continue on the road to return to normal in our schools. For the safety of our students and staff, if changes and mitigation measures need to be added or amended in the future, we will review available guidance and communicate any updates or policy changes impacting our schools and families.
We are grateful to our parents, for your trust in choosing our Catholic schools as we partner with you in the education of your children. We realize the many sacrifices you make to provide a Catholic education for your child, and we appreciate your work with us. Our schools opened for in-person instruction and stayed open this year and this could not have occurred without your cooperation and understanding as we navigated though the various mitigation efforts to keep everyone safe and our schools open.
It has been this mutual commitment that afforded our students a year to be together with their teachers and peers to learn and grow in their academic studies and most importantly in their faith. We have always believed our students to be exceptional, but perhaps this year, even more so. Our saints and scholars of every age persevered through this unique year that required flexibility, determination, and patience; skills that will serve them well far into the future. We are quite proud of each and every one of them and count them among our blessings this year.
In a particular way, we wanted to express our sincere appreciation to our teachers and support staff for all their efforts through the 2020-21 school year. Providing educational opportunities for in-person and virtual students, students who were quarantined, dealing with the winter of 2021 and the many other pandemic related challenges made it a very difficult school year for all of our educators. Their faith, flexibility and creativity amidst these many challenges are to be commended. Most of all, we are so very proud of their commitment and service to the ministry of Catholic education.
It is our sincere hope that each of you and your families have a well-deserved, enjoyable, and healthy summer!