PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Catholic schools in Palm Beach County and throughout the Treasure Coast will be starting two weeks later than originally scheduled.
Gary Gelo, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Palm Beach, said Thursday that the 2020-21 school year will now begin Aug. 24. It had previously been scheduled to start Aug. 10.
Parents will also have the option of deciding between face-to-face instruction and at-home virtual learning.
Gelo said the decision comes after a recent survey polling more than 3,200 parents and 571 employees. He said the survey revealed that the number of parents who wanted in-class instruction for their children dropped from 74% in June to about 50%.
"Before the start of the school year, your principal will provide you with an opportunity to indicate your preference for your child for the first quarter of the school year," Gelo said in a letter sent to parents. "Tuition for either option will be the same."
Gelo said the survey responses about when to return to school were split, with about half favoring the original start date and the other half preferring a later date. He said the new date will provide "teachers with ample time to prepare for the new challenges presented for the coming school year."
The later start date means school will now end June 9, 2021.
Earlier this month, Gelo announced a reopening plan that focused on returning students to the classrooms. However, he cautioned parents that the district "may have to pivot" at any moment.
Typically, Catholic schools will follow the local school district schedules, but that won't be the case under the new diocesan calendar. The School District of Palm Beach County recently announced it would begin the school year virtually and delay the start until Aug. 31, pending approval by the Florida Department of Education.
Teachers at Catholic schools will still return Aug. 10.
"The teachers will have fewer workdays in June than we normally schedule," Gelo said. "The number of teacher days for the school year does not change despite the re-arranged calendar."
Students, teachers and staff will also be required to wear facial coverings when they return to their respective schools to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
"The research is clear that our best protection during this pandemic is to maintain social distance, wear facial coverings and wash hands regularly with soap and water (or use sanitizer)," Gelo said. "We believe that these precautions protect not only ourselves, but our household members, friends and other community members from the COVID-19 virus."
Click here for a full list of Catholic schools in the diocese.