Most Catholic schools welcome students back, emphasize safety as COVID-19 surges

Dori Laidler, a kindergarten student at St. Philomena School in Peoria, dons a Spiderman mask as she prays during a eucharistic procession on the school grounds in October. Safety measures remain in place at Catholic schools around the Diocese of Peoria as COVID-19, including the omicron variant, continued to surge at the beginning of 2022.(The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Christmas break ended Jan. 3 for Catholic schools around the Diocese of Peoria, with almost all of them planning to welcome students at some point during the week. Safety measures were still very much in place as COVID-19 continued to surge in some areas.

One exception was Holy Family School in Peoria, which posted a letter on Facebook Jan. 2 to let parents and guardians know that Christmas break would be extended until next Monday, Jan. 10. Principal Stacie Gianessi said the delay was necessary due to positive COVID cases and exposure among school families and staff members.

Because the Diocese of Peoria covers 26 counties and Catholic schools partner with their local health departments on issues related to COVID-19, Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of diocesan schools, said it was up to each to make the decision that was best for their community.

Because the Diocese of Peoria covers 26 counties and Catholic schools partner with their local health departments on issues related to COVID-19, Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of diocesan schools, said it was up to each to make the decision that was best for their community.

The diocesan schools were asked to notify the Office of Catholic Schools with their plans and adhere to three guidelines:

  • No in-school testing for COVID-19 and its variants is allowed. This guidance comes after consultation with diocesan leadership and Catholic Mutual.
  • If there is no in-person instruction, there are to be no extracurricular activities, including sports.
  • Questions regarding COVID-19 and guidelines for quarantining should be discussed directly with local public health officials.

These points were developed last semester and remain in place, according to Weiss.

FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES

Holy Family School in Peoria is following this guidance, with Gianessi writing that all scheduled athletics events (games and practices) would be postponed or rescheduled through Jan. 10.

She added that there would be no remote learning and that the days will be made up at the end of the 2021-2022 school year.

“In preparation for a full return to in-person instruction on Jan. 10 and prevent further spread of the virus, we encourage our school families and staff to be safe by quarantining as needed and maintaining social distance while wearing a mask when out in public,” Gianessi said. She included information on local testing sites in Peoria for those who may have been exposed or are having COVID symptoms.

“Wishing you all a happy New Year and praying for the safety and health of all of our families,” she concluded.

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