The hallways at Saint John Neumann Elementary School in Williamsport were quiet over the summer but will soon be filled with students as the new academic year begins. (Photo/Eric Deabill)  

SCRANTON – With the first day of school quickly approaching, the Diocese of Scranton’s Office for Catholic Schools is unwavering in its commitment to protect the health and safety of all students, faculty, staff and administrators.

“Last year provided all of us the opportunity to achieve what many others did not – the ability to open our doors and maximize the amount of in-person learning – because we worked together in following thoughtful health and safety protocols that resulted in minimal interruptions,” Jason W.S. Morrison, Secretary of Catholic Education/Chief Executive Officer, and Kristen Donohue, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, wrote in a letter to parents on Aug. 13, 2021.

Using the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania Departments of Education and Health, American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania Policy Lab, the Diocese developed protocols for all of its 19 Catholic Schools to follow this coming year for in-person instruction.

“Of critical importance is the knowledge we all have from living through this pandemic that the environment can change quickly,” the administrators wrote. “We will be responsive to those changes as the situation improves or worsens in our communities. This includes every layer of mitigation and may require decisions to be adjusted on short notice.”

Like last year, high touch surfaces will be cleaned and sanitized frequently in every building and hand sanitizer will be available in hallways, near entrances and other high-traffic areas. In classrooms, desks will be placed at a minimum of three feet apart.

For the second year in a row, parents will be asked to complete a daily health questionnaire at home before their child arrives at school – and temperatures of students, faculty, staff and visitors will be taken when they enter a building.

Schools will make every effort to monitor for COVID-19 related symptoms and have specific guidance for dealing with any potential cases.

Mask requirements will be determined in accordance with the county transmission metrics in which a particular school is located. When a county is classified as having moderate, substantial or high transmission, all individuals will be required to wear masks indoors. When a county is in a low community transmission rate for at least two weeks, masking may return to optional.

“We all long for a full return to normalcy, but must do so safely. We need to partner together to work through these ever-changing times. With your help and patience, we will achieve that return together. We were successful last year, and will be again this year,” Morrison and Donohue wrote in their letter.