PROVIDENCE — “Full, in-person enrollment is the plan for the fall,” said Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Providence Daniel Ferris. “I talk to principals daily who look forward to reopening and welcoming back their students. But they want to do so safely. If we keep our students safe, along with their teachers, and I am confident we will, coming back, if possible, is the best course of action.”
According to Ferris, starting in April, the 39 Rhode Island Catholic school principals and administrators began studying school reopening plans and practices from around the world. Since then, they have crafted their own detailed and extensive reopening plans relying on the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Rhode Island Department of Health, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Catholic School Office and the Rhode Island Department of Education. In the next few weeks, those plans will go through a review process to examine details from morning symptom checks to safe transportation back and forth to schools.
“I can’t think of any area involved with school reopening that the principals haven’t scrutinized, discussed, even debated about how to do safely and effectively,” said Ferris. “When the Catholic schools in the state open in late August, it will be because they learned from the experts and then listened to feedback from their most valued and trusted stakeholders — parents, students, teachers and staff. When you reopen schools in the wake of a pandemic, and with the real possibility of a recurrence, you want to make this work for every student — pre-kindergartener to high school senior — and that’s where we believe the collective wisdom of the school community is indispensable.”
Not all students, however, may be able to return in-person right away, Ferris explained. Some students’ parents may want to keep their children home, those who are at high risk of infection, or whose parents, grandparents, or another family member have a chronic health condition. Ferris added that those students at home, connected and engaged virtually on their home computers with their teachers and classmates or who are on Zoom with a subject area tutor, will still receive a quality Catholic education.
“No Catholic education can be the same outside the community of learners in a Catholic school,” Ferris said, “but the schools will be doing their best to deliver the essentials — and much more. They’re planning on it.”
“We learned from three months of distance learning, which was more successful than we could have imagined,” he said. “If we have to go out again, or for those students learning remotely at home, it will be an experience of high expectations and rigor, and just as enjoyable.”
According to Ferris, that explains why this summer the teachers are honing their distance learning instructional skills. For the students in the classrooms and for those who may be leaning at home, Ferris promises confidently, “Expect extraordinary academic achievement and personal growth. By the grace of God and a lot of careful planning, it may not be a traditional year, but it will be a great year.”