Archdiocese of Chicago plans to reopen Catholic schools this year, Cardinal says

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Cardinal Blase Cupich announced that the Archdiocese of Chicago is planning to reopen schools for in-class learning in the fall.

Catholic Schools in Chicago will be different when students return in the fall.

The Archdiocese released a detailed plan Thursday.

Right when students enter, they will get their temperature checked, wash their hands, and will be asked if their feeling well.

All desks in the classroom will be facing forward and spaced apart.

"It will feel different because of the fact that they won't be in groups together anymore, but they will have individual space," did Father Matthew O'Donnell, the pastor at Augustus Tolton Academy. "We have their space taped out with blue tape so they know this is where their desk was meant to be and this is where hopefully their desk will stay as the day goes on."

Parents will be asked to take their children's temperature before school, and then there will be a second check at school.

Mass will be required for staff and students over 2.

Students will be assigned a group of classmates they will stay with the entire day called a "cohort."

Online learning will still be an option for families not ready for their kids to return to the classroom.

At Tolton Academy, the "cohorts will have assigned spaces - hallways, staircases, and bathrooms.

There is also a plan in place for if someone in the school contracts COVID-19.

"When one student tests positive for Covid, we vigilantly monitor the symptoms of everyone in the cohort. We will do extra cleaning of the cohorts learning space, and maximize air flow. So we do take extra steps when we do have that first Covid positive case," said Superintendent Jim Rigg.

If a second student tests positive, the cohort will be quarantined.

Cupich first made the announcement in June in a video message directed towards parents.
"We have every intention of having our students return to their classrooms when the school year begins in the fall," he said. "Have no doubt that we will employ measures that keep the safety of your children the priority.

Cupich stressed that there would be enhanced regular cleaning and disinfecting of high-contact areas.

"Our decision to aggressively plan reopening our schools this year is based on the value we place on face-to-face instruction and the community learning environment that has distinguished Catholic education over the years," he said.
"We will do whatever is needed to open our schools this year," Cupich said, before urging parents who have not yet registered their students to do so.

"We have a proud tradition of education, and we should not allow this challenge to undermine or diminish that tradition," he said.

Because school building vary, individual school plans will vary as well.

"I think it will be sort of exciting and a learning experience to like see how to adapt to all these changes. I think I will adjust well to it," said Noelle Nimo, a sixth grade student at Tolton Academy.

"In school, they need to be exposed to church...the wider society plays a role in socializing and making them human, that the world is not just their family," said Mark Nimo, a parent and teacher at Tolton Academy.

Like every school district, starting school and keeping schools opened or closed depends on what happens with COVID-19, and that remains unpredictable.
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