Archdiocese of Philadelphia unveils back to school plans: in-person & hybrid models

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Hybrid model for Philly archdiocesan schools
Philadelphia Archdiocesan schools are going forward with a mixed model for the fall semester.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Philadelphia Archdiocesan schools are going forward with a mixed model for the fall semester.

Parish and regional elementary schools and special education services will provide full-time, in-person instruction while high schools will operate on a hybrid model.

"The plans that were ultimately developed have a strong structural framework that seeks to provide the maximum educational experience for students. Key differences among the plans allow for best practices of meeting the needs of students who represent a broad range of physical, emotional, and intellectual growth within the Pre-K-12 spectrum," the Archdiocese said.

The Archdiocese says virtual and other distance learning options are available at most schools for any family that feels uncomfortable sending their children to school for in-person instruction.

They say developments will be constantly evaluated as the pandemic changes.

"We have the capacity and are prepared to provide a virtual learning environment to the greatest extent possible if necessary," the Archdiocese said.

Parish and Regional Elementary Schools

The Archdiocese said the in-person instruction model has "a greater impact at the elementary level as it allows time for students to develop spiritually, socially, emotionally, physically, and academically based on their levels of growth and maturity."

"It is our goal to open up this school year and to remain open," the Archdiocese said in its plan titled Catholic Schools Onward: Best Practices and New Opportunities as We Move Forward.

When a physical presence in the classroom is not possible, the Archdiocese says a Learning Management System will be provided to centralize materials, lessons, instruction, assessments, feedback, and communication.

A major part of this plan is cohorting, where the schools will keep groups of children together for the entire day. They will attend lunch, recess and classes as a cohort. If a case of COVID-19 were to surface with a cohort, officials would then move to virtual learning at home with the identified cohort. The rest of the school would continue to operate with in-class instruction.

The Archdiocese says travel in the hallway, lunch periods, and classroom instruction have all been planned to maximize social distancing. Desks will be placed 3 to 6 feet from the center of each desk to the center of the next desk.

As for masks, they will be mandatory in certain situations, such as travel in the hallway, on the bus, classroom situations with non-cohort members, or when travel about the classroom is necessary without effective social distancing.

"When a child is at his desk with his cohort in a socially distance situation, the student may remove his mask. Using these principles, a student then can remain mask free for the majority of the day, unless a parent indicates they would like their child to keep their mask on the entire day," the Archdiocese said.

The Archdiocese says students should store their mask in a storage bag if they are going to remove it once they reach their desk.

Rooms should be planned around 25 students per room, officials said. And the number of students that can be accommodated depends on the size of the room.

Their plan recommends that teachers use face shields, so students can see their lips as they are providing direction and instruction.

Parents and guardians are to take temperatures and assess for COVID-19 symptoms of their child before they leave home, officials said.

Archdiocesan High Schools

In the model for the high schools, there will be reduced class sizes using a hybrid A/B instruction plan that allows for half of the total number of students to be physically present each day.

Students will be split into two groups that report to class on different days.

"To allow for the recommended six feet distancing in classrooms, cafeteria spaces, and other locations, only half the students would attend school in person each day. On alternating days, students would participate in the same class live from home using a learning management system and classroom cameras," the Archdiocese said in its plan titled Catholic High Schools Compass: Continuing Excellence in Catholic Education.

They say students will be seated a full 6 feet apart, as recommended by the CDC, when in classrooms or seated in the cafeteria or other spaces in the school. Signage will be placed in hallways and stairwells reminding students of the distancing requirement.

The plan says students and staff will be required to wear face coverings following the directives of the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Students should screen themselves for symptoms and temperatures before leaving for school each day, the Archdiocese says.

Archdiocesan Schools of Special Education

There will be five days per week of in-person instruction. Students will remain with their specific cohort. Teachers will rotate in and of the rooms rather than students.

Sneeze guards will be set up on each student's desk and face masks/shields will be worn in shared areas of the building.

The Archdiocese says students will not share food and water fountains will no longer be available. Students will travel only with their cohort and utilize other areas of the school such as bathrooms, computers labs, and gymnasiums.

Parents should take the temperature of the students before they leave home, officials said.