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Diocese of Wilmington announces plans to resume in-person learning at schools on Sept. 1

Children gather around principal Tina Morroni as she pulls a name for a prize during the Book Exchange as part of Catholic Schools Week in January at Immaculate Heart of Mary School. Students are scheduled to return to campuses around the diocese in September after having been learning virtually since March. Photo/Don Blake

Schools in the Diocese of Wilmington will reopen as scheduled for the 2020-21 academic year with in-person instruction, the Office for Catholic Schools announced July 6 in a letter to parents and school personnel. How that plays out in the various buildings is still under discussion, superintendent of schools Louis De Angelo said Tuesday.

Louis De Angelo
Louis De Angelo

“We shall provide faith formation and academic excellence in our schools where health and wellness for all members of the school community remain our priority. The school year will begin on schedule as outlined by your local Catholic school in compliance with guidelines set forth by the state and diocese,” the letter reads.

The first day of school is scheduled for Sept. 1.

In an interview, De Angelo said the exact look of classrooms will be affected by the need for physical distancing and other concerns. In some schools, there is room for students to spread out, while others have significantly larger enrollments.

“It might look different depending on the size of the school. We’re working as much as we can to have students back on campus,” De Angelo said.

A task force comprised of clergy, diocesan leaders, Catholic school board members, educators, medical personnel, parents and community members has been working throughout the coronavirus pandemic to offer proposals for the start of the next school year. They came up with three proposals — in-person, hybrid and virtual. The decision to resume schools in person could change depending on the situations in Delaware and Maryland over the next several weeks.

“If things get worse, as they have gotten in the last week, the governor could make us (close buildings) again. Our plan is to bring them back into the buildings,” De Angelo said. He added that the diocese expects schools in both states will be operating under the same guidelines.

The task force is developing a plan for the schools that focuses on three areas: education, health and wellness, and community. A final version of those guidelines is expected to be ready by the end of July, and parents are asked to discuss individual concerns with their principal.

De Angelo said some preparation at various schools has already begun with respect to cleaning and other work needed to accommodate students in the new environment.

The last time students were in their school buildings for instruction was March 13. At that time, schools were closed for two weeks as the coronavirus became a concern in the United States. The closure was extended once before being implemented for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.

In the letter, De Angelo spread credit around for the success of virtual learning for Catholic school students.

“This year was truly unique, and gratitude is due to pastors, administrators, teachers, staff, families and students who joined together so that quality, Catholic education would continue to thrive virtually,” he wrote.

Not all Catholic schools in Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland are under the auspices of the Diocese of Wilmington. Some private Catholic schools may have different opening dates and could make their own determination in what form the schooling will take place.

This post will be updated as more information becomes available.