More than half of the Diocese of Arlington’s Catholic schools in Virginia are planning to welcome students back to school buildings for all of their fall classes.
The rest are planning a mix of in-person and online classes. Almost all have announced their plans for the coming school year.
Students should expect mask requirements to combat the coronavirus and new protocols for monitoring their health and reporting any symptoms to the schools.
Since the diocese’s 40-some schools vary in size and are located in 12 different jurisdictions, each has its own plan.
“A big thing I think you’re going to see is the creative use of space that might otherwise be typically dedicated to a more flexible purpose like gyms and cafeterias, even music rooms and other places in the building to achieve the separation that you’re looking for for safety,” said Joe Vorbach, schools superintendent for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington.
On Monday, Vorbach toured a school in Vienna, where classrooms have been reworked to maintain social distancing.
“A classroom that might normally have 24 desks in it had about 13, and then only half of that grade is going to be able to be in there, so the other half obviously needs to be in another classroom.”
Vorbach said some classes might even be held outdoors, weather permitting.
Public schools have the added worry of trying to keep students socially distanced on school buses, but that’s not a big concern for the diocese.
“Our students will mostly arrive by carpool and family vehicles,” Vorbach said.
If the pandemic worsens, the diocese’s schools could switch back to all-online learning.
“I think our schools did a great job in March showing a lot of flexibility, shifting quickly and successfully to online learning programs. The same premium on flexibility applies to August, should we need to make an adjustment,” Vorbach said.
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