 School Re-Opening Plans

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Schools will open, but approaches will vary

-By Dr. Sarah Quilici Superintendent of Catholic Schools


After a long spring closure due to the coronavirus and then summer vacation, students will soon be return-ing to school under procedures and protocols that are vastly different from when they left.  This school year is unlike any other because of the ongoing pandemic. In most cases, teachers and students have been out of school buildings for more than five months.

In order to ease the transition and educate our students for a successful school year, Idaho Catholic Schools in “red zones” – those areas of the state deemed to have substantial community spread – will use a phased-in approach to reduce risk to teachers and students. Staff from the Chancery, including Bishop Peter Christensen, Human Resources Director Chuck Lawrence, myself, and others are advising that those schools in red zones open for students in a phased-in format with the goal of fully serving students in an in-person capacity on September 8.

Those schools that are in red zones that have been planning an Aug. 17 opening will use a phased-in approach with hopes of fully serving students in-person three weeks later on Sept. 8. 

Teams from each Idaho Catholic school worked throughout the summer to create reopening plans that meet the specific needs of their facilities and communities. These plans, developed with guidance from public health offi-cials, include social distancing mea-sures, increased sanitization, and mask requirements in those areas with mask ordinances.

As of Monday, August 3, nine of the 16 Idaho Catholic schools are in areas identified by local health departments as category “red,” or hav-ing substantial community spread.  The schools not in red zones include St. Edward’s in Twin Falls, St. Nicholas in Rupert, Holy Spirit in Pocatello, All Saints in Lewiston, St. Mary’s in Moscow, St. John Bosco in Cottonwood and Sts. Peter and Paul in Grangeville.  

Health departments are evaluating these categories on a weekly basis, so information could change.

The goal of the phased-in approach is to help mitigate risk and not con-tribute to the spread of the virus.  All schools have written re-opening plans, but the plans have yet to be tested.  By returning to the schools in phases, each school has an opportunity to test its re-opening plan and make adjust-ments as needed to increase safety. It is important to test plans so that schools are successful and can stay open.  

Schools in red zones – primarily Ada and Canyon counties – are confident that these plans will allow us to eventually serve students in-person as safely as possible. Idaho Catholic schools want to do what is best for students to meet their physical, mental, and spiritual needs.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics “strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”  The AAP has several recommendations for how to do this safely. Our schools have addressed these in their reopening plans. Our goal is to be able to keep our doors open for in-person instruc-tion, even though there may be limits in how many teachers, staff and students can be in the building at the same time.  

Throughout the summer, athletic teams and small groups of students from both public and private schools have been work-ing together on campuses throughout the state. Child-care facilities have been open and Catholic parishes have been open for in-person Mass. If this can be achieved elsewhere, we should work to achieve it in our schools. Doing so is important given the spiritual, physical and mental health benefits of in-person instruction to students. We want to do all we can to serve the needs of our students and families. 

To summarize, our goals are these:

  • The health and safety of students and staff.
  • Keeping students engaged in learning
  • Building relationships with families to keep them engaged with our community
  • Clear and proactive communica-tion with families about their health, safety and education when returning to school.

During these times, it is most im-portant that we trust in the Lord. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who labor and are bur-dened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)

Opening dates

Dates for opening school vary across the state depending on the calendars adopted by local school districts. For ease of planning, Catholic schools try to adhere, as closely as is possible, to the school calendar of the public school districts where they are located. 
Below are the planned opening dates, though opening in red zones will use a phased-in approach with smaller groups of students on campus at one time.

August 17: Bishop Kelly High School, Sacred Heart in Boise, St. Ignatius in Meridian, St. Joseph’s in Boise, St. Mark’s in Boise, St. Mary’s in Boise, and St. Paul’s in Nampa.  

August 19: St. Edward’s in Twin Falls

August 20: St. Nicholas in Rupert

August 26: All Saints in Lewiston.

Sept. 1: Holy Spirit in Pocatello. 

Sept. 2: St. Mary’s in Moscow, Sts. Peter and Paul in Grangeville, and Holy Family in Coeur d’Alene. 

Sept. 8: Holy Rosary in Idaho Falls and St. John Bosco in Cottonwood. 

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