Idaho Catholic schools continue to be open for in-person instruction. Faith is being taught, and there is some sense of routine and normalcy for students, which is so critical to their social and emotional health.
As of Nov. 30, 2020, Idaho Catholic schools were reporting low numbers of positive COVID cases in their communities. One school, St. Mary’s in Moscow, reports zero cases. All of our schools have been open for in-person learning since mid-August or early September. The mitigation measures in place at the schools have prevented the schools from being a source of spread for the virus.
A representative from North Central Health District told St. Mary’s Moscow: “Don’t change a thing in your school – the data bears it out. Your families are doing the right thing outside of school, and inside your school, you are doing everything that is asked of you to reduce risk. Your school is a role model for other schools.”
Each school is considered its own entity, which means that the priest/principal assesses the situation at each school to determine next steps. Idaho’s Catholic schools have had to learn about contact tracing and close contacts. “Close contact” is defined as being within six feet for longer than 15 minutes with someone who tests positive for COVID.
Schools have had to quarantine students because of exposure. Some schools have had to quarantine a whole class for a period of time. A few schools temporarily pivoted to distance learning for a short time to respond to illness or operational concerns at the school. The biggest impact on day-to-day operations is staff being out ill and not having enough substitutes to cover their absences.
The focus now is on finishing the first semester within the beautiful context of the season of Advent. Schools in the Treasure Valley will finish their semester on Dec. 18, and schools outside of the Treasure Valley will finish in January.
This Advent season is an important time during which the joy of our faith is shared.
As we approach Christmas break, schools are holding virtual Christmas programs, socially distanced service projects, and dress-up/activity weeks designed to encourage staff and students in their buildings.
Bishop Kelly High School students and staff could attend one of two Masses offered to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on Dec. 8. Holy Spirit Catholic School students in Pocatello provided “drive-up caroling” and collecting canned food items to feed the hungry.
Staff from our Catholic schools have been incredibly committed during these challenging times, stepping up to ensure that students can still come to school to learn and grow.
Catholic schools are also using this month to make plans for the future.
Catholic Schools’ Week is Jan. 31 to Feb. 6 of next year. This is a time when Catholic schools invite the community to celebrate with them. The week typically includes tours to encourage new families to consider a Catholic education for their children, and remind those in the school why they are committed to Catholic education.
Schools are also working to budget and set fees and tuition for 2021-22. This is not an easy task, as there still many uncertainties regarding the next school year. However, we are certain of this: Idaho’s Catholic schools will continue to help parents form their children in the faith while also providing rigorous academic content.