FALL RIVER (CBS) – Come September, some schools will be back in session, in person, across parts of Southeastern Massachusetts. The Diocese of Fall River Catholic Schools announced Wednesday that pre-K through 8th grade students will return in the fall for in-classroom instruction.
“As we began to plan with our schools we began to learn that we in fact can ensure the safety of our kids. And make sure that the virus is not going to spread within our schools,” said Superintendent Steve Perla. “We can in fact provide an education and ensure the kids are there for five days a week.”
The Diocese of Fall River has 20 Catholic schools, made up of 4 high schools, 1 middle school, and 15 elementary schools.
The four high schools will announce their plans for re-opening on an individual basis. St. John Paul II in Hyannis has announced that they will have full in-classroom instruction, with some overflow students in other parts of the building.
Superintendent Perla said the plan is subject to change if Massachusetts sees a spike in cases. There will be remote learning options for families who are not comfortable returning. The in-school plan requires students and staff follow state guidelines for screenings, hand hygiene, face coverings and physical distancing.
“Lunch will be brought to the classroom and they’ll be eating lunch in the classroom. We anticipate that all of their specials will be offered in the classroom space which they go to at the beginning of the day. So we’re really going to minimize movement,” Perla said. “We’ve gotten some very good reaction overall across the Diocese. We know that families are really excited to have their kids come back. We worry quite frankly about the mental health impacts. These kids have been isolated. We know they want to see their friends and get back to see their teachers. We think it’s important for their social and mental health that they have an opportunity to go back to school.”
Timea Menyhart’s three children attend Catholic school. She said she’s confident the Diocese will adhere to health guidelines and be able to spread out the student body. School officials tell WBZ-TV about 3,200 students are enrolled in the 16 schools re-opening. Menyhart says she’s most concerned about compliance.
“The most important thing is that we need to know our own children and be confident they will rise to the occasion. Certainly, I do have concerns about compliance of other children,” Menyhart said. “[But] the school is going to be addressing this very, very seriously. There are going to be some serious consequences for non-compliance. That’s probably my biggest worry.”