Idaho Catholic schools are preparing to open this fall



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Idaho Catholic schools are preparing to open this fall

By Dr. Sarah Quilici


In order to be ready for our anticipated opening this fall, a task force comprised of Bishop Kelly Principal Mike Caldwell, St. Mary’s-Moscow Principal Jennifer Beller, Bishop Kelly school nurse MaryLou Cunningham and me reviewed guidance on school re-openings from the Centers for Disease Control, the Idaho State Board of Education, and local health departments. Later, all of the Idaho Catholic school principals met and discussed options and plans for the fall based on information compiled by the task force. What follows are some of the conclusions from our discussions.





As Idaho Catholic schools plan for fall 2020, there are some assumptions we are making:


• There will not be a cure or vaccine for COVID-19 this year.
• We don’t know what Gov. Brad Little’s regulations or guidelines will be in August, or throughout the school year, because we do not know what community spread of the virus will look like.
• Some students will not enter our buildings next year because of health concerns or fear about exposure, but they want to stay enrolled in our schools.
• There are some best practices in learning, such as different aspects of distance learning, which are coming out as a result of our experience with the distance learning challenges of during the last three months. These will change our educational practices for the better.
• We will need to work with students to address any gaps in learning due to being out of school during the last three months.

Given these assumptions, we have some goals for Idaho Catholic schools in fall 2020:


• Work to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.
• Maintain our Catholic identity.
• Keep students engaged in learning.
• Teach students essential skills for their grade level.
• Build relationships with families to help them feel a sense of belonging and connectivity.

Keeping in mind that not all students learn in the same fashion, there have been some good strategies and tools used during the last three
months of distance learning that helped students grow. Also, Idaho Catholic schools have smaller class sizes, which makes many of the schools more adaptable in changing circumstances, and may allow us to do some things that are not possible in larger districts. Idaho Catholic school leaders are also aware that parents work different schedules. We are considering family needs as we develop plans.

What will this look like this fall?


Each school will work with its local health department and school-based leadership team to finalize details. Some of these details will not be available until August when we have a better picture of what the spread of COVID-19 looks like. However, you can rest assured that all Idaho Catholic schools are planningfor the following:

Health and safety.

Schools will most likely have social distancing measures in place. This could mean that students sit in their own desks six feet apart from other desks. Schools will have to monitor traffic into and out of the building, as well as through the halls. This may mean that schools will need staggered start and end times to control traffic flow. Schools will have to limit mixed groups on the playground or in the cafeteria, for example. Lunch may be held in classrooms, and playgrounds may be closed
for the year. This does not mean that students cannot get outside and move during their school day; it just may look different. We will deploy enhanced cleaning protocols for all school buildings. Schools may request that masks be worn. There will need to be hand washing and sanitizing stations throughout the schools, along with education about how to use them appropriately. Schools will revise absence policies to make sure those who are ill – or who live with someone who is ill – stay home.

Catholic identity.

Instruction in our Catholic faith is what sets our schools apart. Idaho Catholic schools will maintain that identity through livestreamed Masses that may have a limited number of students in attendance. As always, teachers will weave elements of faith into all that we do. Schools will work closely with their parishes to keep families
connected to the life of the parish.


Idaho Catholic teachers will continue to utilize small-group learning and one-on-one teacher-student learning. Students will continue to learn on their own time through video and other activities. Teachers will work to meet the needs of all students through either video conferencing or in-person classes. Teachers will provide
active learning when students are in class and independent work time at home in the event of a distance-learning

Essential skills.

Idaho Catholic schools are working together to define what students need to know and are able to do at each grade level. At the beginning of the year, teachers will
assess what skills and gaps students have in order to determine how to best move them forward with their learning. Schools will use the MAP
(Measures of Academic Progress) test, as well as teacher-designed assessments to determine the best academic course for students.

Building relationships.

Our schools will work to build relationships with families through phone calls, Zoom meetings, in-person meetings, and events (when possible). Idaho Catholic schools desire to open their doors to students this fall and are working on plans to do this. We have learned some lessons from schools that were open on a limited
basis during May. Parents need to know that school is not going to look the same as it has in past years. If there are statewide or local stay-at-home orders in place, Catholic schools will abide by those orders.

However, Catholic schools are able to make different decisions than local public schools because of our smaller size.

For example, while some public schools were not able to open in May, some of our schools were able to do so due to our differing circumstances.
We are committed to providing the best learning opportunities for our students.



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