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Diocese of Palm Beach Catholic schools plan to reopen in fall

Superintendent says 'we may have to pivot' at any moment
Posted at 11:10 AM, Jul 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-10 13:30:47-04

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Catholic schools in Palm Beach County and throughout the Treasure Coast are planning for students to be in classrooms this fall.

Gary Gelo, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Palm Beach, said Wednesday that a task force comprised of seven principals worked for several weeks to craft the reopening plan for the 2020-21 school year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"It is the intention of the task force to have students back in the classroom come" Aug. 10, the scheduled start of the new school year, Gelo said.

Gelo also released the school reopening plan to parents. It includes detailed information about how the schools intend to keep children safe and maintain social distancing guidelines.

"The task force reviewed much of the science provided by epidemiologists, pediatricians, state and local health departments, the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and others," Gelo said. "We also used the parent survey results from early June, which indicated that more than 74% of our parents wanted students to return to their classrooms. Ultimately, this became the goal of the task force: return students to the classrooms, where learning is maximized through teacher and student interaction."

Gelo said the decision is in line with Florida Education Commission Richard Corcoran's recent order that schools reopen for in-class instruction five days per week.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that children should be in the classroom this fall.

"Educating our kids is absolutely essential," DeSantis said during a news conference in Jacksonville. "I have no doubt we can do this safely."

While Gelo said the "intention is to follow" the reopening plan, he cautioned that "it could be that at any moment we may have to pivot to adapt to an ever-fluid situation."

"Before the start of the school year, each of our schools will have in place a return to school plan to reopen our school facilities and an instructional continuity plan in the event that our school campuses are forced to return to at-home learning for all students. I am confident that we are prepared for the coming year."

The announcement comes as Palm Beach County school board members seem to favor online-only learning. An official vote by the School District of Palm Beach County is expected next week.

Among the Catholic schools that would reopen in the fall under the plan are St. Ann Catholic School in West Palm Beach, St. Luke Catholic School in Palm Springs, Sacred Heart School in Lake Worth Beach, St. John Paul II Academy in Boca Raton, Cardinal Newman High School in West Palm Beach and John Carroll High School in Fort Pierce. Click here for a full list of Catholic schools in the diocese.