SOUTH CAROLINA—The Diocese of Charleston has set a date of Aug. 17 for schools to begin opening.
Some of the 33 schools in the diocese will begin classes that first day, but start dates are flexible and some are waiting until September to begin, according to Bill Ryan, superintendent of Catholic Schools.
A list of schools can be found at www.charlestondiocese.org/schools.
All schools will follow guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, along with state and local recommendations, to ensure the safest possible learning environment — including smaller classrooms, health screenings, stringent cleaning and handwashing, face coverings, safe distancing, and other protocols to keep students and staff healthy.
A broad stakeholder group helped develop these recommendations and solicited feedback from teachers, parents, principals and pastors.
“I do think our schools are going to be very safe and all the schools are working very hard to put those guidelines in place,” Ryan said.
School officials have emphasized the importance of in-person instruction for students’ well-being.
“Distance learning is not the same as teacher/student interaction, which is critical for academic success,” Ryan said.
Sandra Leatherwood, who recently retired as Superintendent of Catholic Schools and now serves as the diocesan accreditation coordinator, stressed the strong social and emotional benefit to children of being in class with their peers, along with the spiritual aspect of a religious education.
Holy Trinity in North Myrtle Beach will be among the very first schools to begin the fall term.
The school, which includes grades K-3 to fifth, maintains a small class size of about 10 kids per class, said Karen Luzzo, principal.
“It allows us to social distance our desks and do the cleaning and sanitizing we need to do,” she said.
Luzzo said they have been working all summer and have revamped the entire school to meet CDC guidelines and make it as safe as possible.
She said everyone is very excited to be back together again and have face-to-face, in-house learning. She noted that they do have an option to livestream classes if someone has to stay home for an extended period.
Another Myrtle Beach school that is starting Aug. 17 is St. Andrew, which will offer a blended program.
St. Mary Help of Christians in Aiken and Summerville Catholic have one of the last openings, planned for Sept. 1 and Sept. 8, respectively.
School officials said it will be a very different-looking school year, but they are prepared for it.
Of all the changes in the offing, Luzzo said she receives the most comments about not being able to share in the schoolwide morning prayer assembly that has become tradition at Holy Trinity.
“That’s the thing people are most sad about. Sharing prayer and chapel, that’s what makes us who we are as Catholics,” she said, adding that regardless, they still feel very blessed.