Students in Catholic schools of the Diocese of Brownsville will return to classes on Aug. 31 for distance learning only, and for in-person instruction on Sept. 28, Bishop Daniel E. Flores directed in a letter to Sister Cynthia Mello, diocese superintendent of schools.
Like their public school counterparts, Catholic schools transitioned to online learning when the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the Rio Grande Valley in March. The 2020-2021 school year will begin much like the last school year ended, with buildings closed but schools open and learning continuing, Flores said in the Aug. 15 letter.
“It is now time to begin a new school year, and to do so with an awareness that the COVID-19 virus continues to present a substantial threat to our communities,” Flores said. “We must help our young people and their families stay as safe from infection as possible, and also help them deal with the emotional, psychological challenges this virus brings.”
Flores said school officials “are committed to opening our Catholic schools for five days a week for in-school instruction as soon as is reasonably possible. When we do open our classroom doors, all of our students will observe social distancing and other important safety protocols under the direct supervision of our principals and teachers. CDC protocols will be strictly followed.”
The bishop noted that school officials have been working over the summer to create a Reopening School Plan Manual in preparation for face-to-face instruction. Each school will follow guidelines specific to their campus and its layout.
Flores said the diocese would be mindful of the restrictions local authorities have placed on the public schools, and that while the Church’s schools are not bound by these directives “we do have an obligation to work together with health authorities to protect the safety of students and of the whole community. … I have consulted with local county authorities and all agree that the vulnerability of the Valley to a continued high infection rate is of great concern.”
“In making a decision about when we can begin face-to-face instruction in our Catholic schools we must look first to our local situation. It is very serious. We have to think of our students and of our teachers, of volunteers and administrative staff as well. And we have to think of the parents and grandparents that await them all at home when the school day is over. And we must think of the good of the whole Rio Grande Valley,” he said.
Flores said the schools would be sharing with parents specific plans and protocols for the coming year.
“I ask for your continued vigilance as we seek to limit the impact and spread of this virus. Please follow the health recommendations local officials have urged. Wear your mask in public, practice social distancing, use disinfectant frequently.”