Catholic schools are back in this new COVID-19 reality

By Todd Blahnik | For The Compass | August 26, 2020

As a child, fall was always my favorite time of year. It brought the excitement of a new school year, along with the crispness of fallen leaves, as well as my birthday. As I think about that sense of excitement, I cannot help but to think about the new feeling the students and teachers will be feeling — that of anxiety about the fall ahead.

The last time they spent time with their classmates was March. In fact, many of them didn’t even have the luxury of any sense of closure to the 2019-2020 school year. However, I am feeling that familiar tingle of excitement. I know that all the hard work that our Catholic school administrators have put in will pay off in a safe and secure opening to the school year. I know that our students will have the safe reassurance of once again rejoining their Catholic school family.

All throughout the summer, administrators, faculty and staff members of our Catholic schools have been working with one purpose in mind: the joy of seeing their students again. They, along with members of the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools, have been diligently researching what needed to be done to provide the safest environment for the students in this new COVID-19 reality. The goal for all students, parents, faculty, administrators and support staff is to feel safe, happy and holy throughout the entire 2020-2021 school year.

The output of that effort was set guidelines for school opening based on evidence and guidance from the Department of Public Instruction, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. While no one can conceive of every possible situation, that framework provided a starting point for each school community. It is a framework that provides the most current information from state and local authorities to our 54 Catholic schools. While no school is removed from the possible risks of infection from COVID-19, careful and thoughtful planning and precautionary measures have been put into place to help protect staff and students while mitigating risk to the community.

Even with these additional stressors, at the heart of what everyone has been preparing for this year, the core of what we do — is teaching our Catholic faith. Educating children in the faith — to know, love and serve God — is our top priority. I know that each classroom will not only provide the best possible education.

Students will receive education steeped in the traditions and teachings of our Catholic faith. As schools of discipleship, our Catholic schools will continue to invite young people to a relationship with Jesus Christ or deepen an existing relationship with Jesus.

As we move forward, the most important thing we can all do is to remain positive and trust in Christ to lead us. To quote St. John Paul II, “There is no evil to be faced that Christ does not face with us. There is no enemy that Christ has not already conquered. There is no cross to bear that Christ has not already borne for us, and does not now bear with us.”

Blahnik is superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Green Bay.

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