Going safely back to school

Superheroes aren’t the only ones wearing masks

Miscellany/Jeff Blake: Carol Leach, a teacher at St. John Neumann in Columbia, helps students (from left) Rosie Kowalski, Adelise Maturi and Duncan Grimes wash their hands on the first day of class.

Masks were firmly in place and sanitizer on hand as students and teachers began returning to schools across the diocese.

Divine Redeemer in Hanahan was one of the first to open its doors for the new year, with classes beginning Aug. 17. Other schools will follow in its wake with various start times running into September.

As students, teachers and staff returned to the classroom amidst the pandemic, they shared some concerns and prayers for the coming year.

“We’re praying for all and anyone involved in re-opening the schools,” said Patsy Benke Sams on a social media post to the diocese. “May God protect them, the children and their families from all and everything that is not of you, Lord.” 

Parents praised schools that have implemented detailed plans and safety measures, including Holy Trinity and Seton in the Myrtle Beach Deanery, noting that Seton has hired a school nurse and has the option for in-person or online instruction, as needed.

Miscellany/Mary Beth Lyons: Students pray during Mass at St. Gregory the Great on their first day back to school.

William Ryan, superintendent of Catholic Schools, said options for virtual learning are up to each school, all of which have created individual plans as guidelines for a safe year.

Most parents who spoke about the reopening had positive things to say about the extensive cleaning and sanitizing procedures that have been put in place, but said they still have concerns.

“I am so worried about what we cannot control,” Laura Lyons Karrh wrote on the diocesan website. “Our school has put together a great plan and safety measures but I still worry. And pray. I wish they would delay opening until [the] positive rate goes down.” 

People also offered prayers for a vaccine, and asked God to protect those on the frontlines of education, healthcare and other essential services.

Miscellany/Doug Deas: Cindy Rumph, assistant principal of Divine Redeemer School in Hanahan, bumps elbows with one of her students.

Ryan said teachers and parents in the diocese were required to sign a statement of understanding, consent form and waiver of liability that acknowledges the nature of the virus and the fact that anyone can be exposed. It sets forth protocols required for maintaining a safe environment and notes that the signor will hold the school and diocese harmless.

Ryan said signing the document shows each person completely understands the issue, but a teacher who refuses to sign is not going to be fired.

“It really is not a condition of employment,” he said. “We need to make sure everyone understands the protocols for safety.”

As the 33 schools in the diocese continue to open in the coming weeks, prayers will also continue for the safety of all.

“May they have a blessed year. And may the virus disappear. Lord have mercy,” Kathy Gault said.

Miscellany/Mary Beth Lyons: Students at John Paul II in Ridgeland maintain safety while doing their work.