By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator

Schools in the Diocese of Baton Rouge are scheduled to open in early August, according to a statement from the diocese released July 22.

The diocese released the statement on the same day the East Baton Rouge School System announced the delay of the start of students attending in-person classes until at least Labor Day, with online classes beginning Aug. 10. 

The statement read that start dates for all diocesan, parochial and private schools which are part of the Catholic schools district are listed on the Catholic Schools Office website at csobr.org. It went on to say schools began communicating the week of July 20 with faculty, staff and parents outlining the specifics of each school’s plan to open.

The statement reiterated comments made by Dr. Melanie Palmisano, superintendent of Catholic Schools to The Catholic Commentator that protocols are being tailored to each school’s individual needs. There is no “one size fits all” protocol, though all schools must follow guidelines set by the Louisiana  Department of Education. These include the maximum number of people in a classroom to assure proper space for social distancing.  

The statement said school officials have been getting advice from consultants from Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, who are visiting each school and offering recommendations on things like classroom configurations, how to address recess and lunch and best practices for walking the hallway between classes. 

 School start and end times will be determined by each school, with an attempt to keep those times as normal as possible. Schools may have to stagger intake times to help parents with carpool traffic if public school bus service is not immediately available because of the pandemic.  

Protocols for students entering school buildings will vary, but all schools will have a method verifying each student is entering a healthy space. Parents might have to log into the school’s app in the morning and answer a series of health-related questions. Some schools could possibly have daily temperature checks of all students.

 Recess will also have a different look as students will not be allowed to play on the equipment or engage in any contact sports. Lunches will either be delivered to the classroom so students can eat at their desks, or lunches will be grab-and-go, with students either returning to the class to eat or perhaps eating outside in picnic style, depending on the weather. 

Some Louisiana public school systems are offering online class options, but Catholic schools in our diocese will partner directly with parents on such requests. It is important for students to have social interaction at school for their holistic development, so the ideal is for students to return to classrooms and develop relationships with teachers and their peers. However, if a need arises that warrants online learning support, Catholic schools are ready to consider that as a solution for individual situations.