In fall, students will return to Catholic schools Print
Our Catholic Schools
Thursday, Jul. 02, 2020 -- 12:00 AM

Looking back at my life, other than some great teachers, my time in elementary school wasn't that memorable. Like anything, it had its moments but as a whole, it was pretty ordinary.


While I'm sure this is the experience for most people, I can safely say that spring 2020 is a time that most of our students will never forget. Schools closed in mid-March due to COVID and stayed closed for the rest of the school year.

Dealing with pandemic

Students and teachers were suddenly forced to figure out how to learn and teach at home via distance learning and new technologies.

During this time, our communities came together to tackle these challenges. Our principals, teachers, and parents united in an effort that was nothing short of heroic to make sure that children kept learning.

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard, at times with great personal sacrifice, to protect and care for our children and students! This showed the strength of our Catholic school community as we all came together and pushed through a sudden, unexpected, and truly unforgettable experience.

Returning to school

Now that school is over and we've had a chance to step back, we've turned our attention to planning for students to return to school in the fall.

After conducting surveys and holding discussions with parents at Catholic schools around the diocese, as well as reviewing research on children's learning and development, we know that what's best for most children and families is to be in school, in-person, with their teacher and classmates five days a week.

As Bishop Donald Hying stated in his letter of June 12, 2020, this is what we are planning to do.

Each school crafts plans

Last week, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) released guidelines outlining ideas for how schools could welcome students back safely in the fall. They emphasized that these were only guidelines, not requirements.

As schools and communities vary across the state, there is no "one size fits all" solution. What may be practical at one school may be impractical or impossible at another. These guidelines are simply suggestions to serve as a starting point as each school crafts plans that address the needs of its own families and school communities and work within its unique space.

Over the summer, our principals and teachers will be hard at work talking to parents, medical professionals, and county health departments as we plan for the safe return of students to school. We are looking at state and county guidelines as well as the experiences of countries like Australia, Denmark, Ireland, and Sweden, where students have already returned to school.

As schools plan, they will be engaging parents and families to ask opinions and let them know where they are in the planning process. As we know, safety from the virus won't be achieved by the actions of a single person, but by all of us working together.

Toward this end, each school will work with its own community of teachers, parents, healthcare professionals, and the local health department to draft its own plan.

While personal hygiene, hand washing, and sanitizing will be stressed at all schools, additional measures adopted at one school may be different than the measures at another school. For example, one school may have enough room to distance students in the cafeteria, but another school may choose to have students eat in their classrooms.

Partnering with parents

Research shows that next to parents, children's lives are influenced most by their teachers. Our schools partner with parents in the critical task of educating children and forming them in faith and character.

We look forward to continuing this partnership, working together to review guidance, research, and the needs of students and families as we plan for a safe return to school in-person this fall.

May you all have an enjoyable summer, and may God bless you and your families.

Michael Lancaster is the superintendent of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Madison.