On September 8, 2020, Catholic elementary students stepped back inside classrooms across the Diocese of Pittsburgh for the first time in nearly six months.
When the coronavirus struck last March, school buildings immediately closed. Remote learning soon began.
“The students are doing great!” said Patricia Osekowski, principal of Holy Cross Academy in Ross Township. “Every one of them has a mask on. Their parents obviously worked with them.”
Michelle Peduto, diocesan director of Catholic Schools, also is pleased with the start of school.
“I was present at Holy Family School (in Plum) as the students arrived for their first day back since March 13,” she said. “It was wonderful to see the students, faculty and staff so excited to return. I am very grateful to our Catholic school communities as they work together to keep our students safe, healthy and learning.”
The official start of the elementary school year was delayed slightly to allow teachers more time to prepare their classrooms, practice new safety protocols, test systems for distance learning and hold in-service days for health and safety training.
Catholic high schools in the diocese remained on their original opening schedules.
Holy Cross Academy families donated forehead thermometers for every classroom and a thermal imaging thermometer to scan large groups of students as they arrive through the main school entrance. They also provided 40-inch TV monitors for every classroom so students learning from home can be virtually present among their peers.
Across the diocese, in-person, distance learning and hybrid plans are in place to deliver quality Catholic education to students.
Each school received diocesan reopening guidelines which reflect safe practices outlined in local, state and federal health directives. Individual schools then created implementation plans based on unique considerations of their building space, staff and student enrollment. Those plans were submitted to the diocesan schools office for review and approval.
“Safety is always our number one priority,” Osekowski said, “but this year that takes on a new meaning.”
Below: Patricia Osekowski, Holy Cross Academy principal, gives opening day details.