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Diocese of Harrisburg's Reopening Plan Guidelines

Updated as of 9/1/21. Changes in red.
Acknowledgment Forms: 
All parents will be required to sign an updated “acknowledgments and notices” form before the start of the 2021-22 school year.  These will be similar to the forms signed before the 2020-21 school year.

Weekly Data Collection:
Schools will continue to complete the weekly survey from the Office of Catholic Schools on COVID-related matters until further notice in order to ensure consistent data collection efforts. The (Diocesean) re-opening committee will review the data weekly and will consider adjusted mitigation strategies, if necessary, for the following school week for each school. In order to respond to pertinent data or health situations in a particular school, further mitigation strategies could be used for a designated period of time.
Virtual Learning - Individual Request: 
Permission must be given for children to attend our Catholic schools virtually in the 2021-22 school year. We believe it is best to have our students in-person in our schools, whenever possible. Parents may make an application to the re-opening committee (not to the building principal) for consideration for virtual education. The application includes the completion of a Google Form and an email including the needed medical documentation. Only medically documented reasons will be considered.  When the re-opening committee receives the application, the committee will consult with the building principal on the matter. The application, pertinent dates, and email link can be found here.
Virtual Learning - Response to Exposure: 
If quarantine is needed for a group of students, the school will strive to accommodate that group through a combination of virtual and traditional learning methods. Schools need to be prepared to offer virtual instruction in case an entire class needs to be quarantined. 
Temperature & Symptom Checks: 
Temperature checks will not be done on a daily basis; rather, they will be reserved for screening potentially ill students or faculty and staff. 
  • Parents will be asked to be vigilant in checking students for symptoms of illness and to keep students home when ill.
  • As details of specific symptoms of concern are known, the school will advise parents of any symptoms that require students to remain at home.
  • Faculty and staff are asked to do a daily self-check for symptoms. 
Social Distancing: 
Students are expected to be three feet apart in the classroom, to the extent feasible.
Throughout the pandemic, we, the Diocese of Harrisburg, have followed every state mandate, and, when developing our safety plan for this school year, stated that we would continue to follow state COVID-19 mandates. We understand there are various positions and feelings regarding masking, but, as we have a mandate that applies to parochial schools, our cooperation is required. As such, face masks will be required for all students, faculty, staff, visitors, et al., when indoors in all 36 Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Harrisburg, regardless of vaccination status, effective Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
Based on the Department of Health’s mandate, our masking protocols include:
  • A face mask, covering the mouth and nose, must be worn by all students, teachers, staff, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, when inside our Catholic schools.
  • Face masks are not required when:
    • Wearing a mask would cause a medical condition or exacerbate an existing one, including respiratory issues, mental health conditions, or a disability.
      • In these cases, a face shield is recommended to be worn.
    • Engaging in an activity that cannot be performed while masked, like eating and drinking or playing a musical instrument.
    • Participating in physical education classes and athletic practices or events, whether indoor or outdoor.
    • The individual is under two (2) years of age.
Vaccines will not be required for anyone. 
  • Those vaccinated will not be required to quarantine if exposed to Covid. 
Record of Vaccines: 
Principals will need to know the vaccination status of the people in the buildings in order to be aware of the overall health situation in the schools and to be able to make quarantine decisions if needed.
  • Faculty and staff in our schools will inform the principal about their vaccination status at the proper time and through the proper channels.
  • Parents of students are encouraged to let principals know, in the manner the school establishes, if children have been vaccinated. 
  • In all cases, the school will take every reasonable precaution to safeguard the privacy and dignity of all students, faculty, and staff regarding vaccination status.
We will await more information from the state to see if contact tracing and quarantine are required at all for those students and faculty and staff who are exposed to a COVID-positive person. We will assume that we will operate as we did in 2020-21 unless told otherwise. Therefore, unvaccinated faculty, staff, or students who are exposed to a COVID-positive person will need to quarantine based on time frames established by the CDC and adopted by the State of Pennsylvania. Fully vaccinated faculty, staff, and students will NOT need to quarantine, and no contact tracing is needed. Clearly, any student or faculty, or staff member who tests positive for COVID must quarantine, with the length of the quarantine to be determined by the Board of Health. 
Parents, visitors, and volunteers: 
Parents, volunteers, and other visitors will be allowed in schools.
  • Those who are fully vaccinated will not be asked to wear masks.
  • Signage will be posted prominently in the lobby/office indicating that parents, visitors, and volunteers in our school who are not fully vaccinated are asked to wear masks while in the school.
  • When signing in, parents, visitors, and volunteers will sign that they understand and will comply with the request to mask if they are not fully vaccinated. No one will be asked for proof of vaccination when signing in.
Areas in schools for common use -- that is, used regularly by multiple groups within the school -- need to be cleaned regularly.
  • Locker rooms, gyms, band and chorus areas, and any other spaces used by multiple school groups are to be cleaned in the middle of the week, ideally, but at least once a week. 
  • Lunchroom surfaces need to be sanitized between lunch shifts. 
  • Classroom desks and high-traffic areas should be cleaned daily at the end of the school day. 
Schools will make every effort to provide as much ventilation as possible in each classroom, as we did in 2020-21.  Leaving windows and doors open in an appropriate manner is the simplest approach. 
Handwashing and hygiene: 
Students will be asked to wash/sanitize hands at sensible times, as always: at the start and end of the school day, before and after lunch, when they have sneezed or used the restroom, and as needed. Water fountains may not be used. Schools may ask students to bring water bottles to school.
Field trips:
Reasonable field trips can be taken in the local area and that decision resides with the school. Proposed trips beyond the local area are to be brought to the Secretary for Education for discussion. However, the responsibility to vet the locations and situations encountered on these trips resides with the school. Schools will need to do homework and be sure of the situation students will encounter during the field trip:  crowded areas, etc. -- and will prepare appropriately. High schools will be able to offer overnight retreats, as long as there is a thorough, written health and safety plan in place.
Social, emotional, and spiritual care for students:
We need to make sure, in each school, that we are carefully monitoring student learning and providing all possible resources to meet individual learning needs and to provide the best resources for social, emotional, and spiritual growth for our students. As we did last year, we will take a team approach in our schools:  school nurses, counselors, social workers (if available), and priests will bring powerful resources to benefit our students. That team will need close collaboration with parents and with teachers, who know the needs of their students well.
Groupings:  cohorts, assemblies, Mass, small group work
While we will not start the year with the strict cohorting system we used last year, each school is asked to plan the daily interaction of student groups. Each school will determine the range of those groups.  In the end, if there is potential exposure to COVID, we need to know how to proceed.  As an example: a school may decide that one group will be grades K-2, as they need to eat lunch at the same time. Schools may have small groups work together within the classroom. Maintain the three-foot distance, to the extent feasible.   
Groupings - Cafeteria:
The cafeteria may be used. To the extent feasible, students should be three feet apart in the cafeteria. Commonly used surfaces in the cafeteria must be cleaned between lunch shifts. A clean and simple approach for the school is to make the groups mentioned above the same as the lunch groups that share the cafeteria. 

Groupings - Assemblies:
Schools may have assemblies, as needed.  As assemblies will bring together more than one school group, schools are encouraged to start with a small number of assemblies in the first quarter of the school year, until we see the overall impact.
Groupings - Mass:
School Masses will continue, as per Diocese of Harrisburg guidelines for Mass.