News Article

Letter From The Diocese: COVID-19 Mask and Safety Guidance


August 2, 2021

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Thanks to the cooperation and work of all of our staff, students, and parents, our schools successfully completed a year of in-person learning in the midst of the pandemic, and we are looking forward to the gifts and blessings this new year will bring.

With the coronavirus pandemic still with us, we remain ever aware of our responsibility to protect our children. We continue to rely on the guidance of our health professionals. We are all aware of how deadly this disease can be, and our thoughts and prayers are with all who have experienced it either personally or with loved ones.

As Catholic communities, our schools strive to protect the needs and dignity of the individuals as well as to live our call to love one another, to protect the vulnerable, and be mindful of the common good of those in our communities.

We ask parents to thoughtfully and prayerfully read the most current information and recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) for your information. Throughout this past year and a half, much has been learned. Much is still to be learned.

CDC: K-12 Guidance
ODH: K-12 Guidance

This document outlines the plan for the schools in the Diocese of Youngstown for the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. Our plan for this year continues to be based on multiple strategies that work together to layer protection around our students.

The Diocese of Youngstown and its Catholic schools reserve the right to change this policy at any time during the school year based on the advice of public health experts and high levels of communicable disease spread. Each school works with its local health department. Any change in protocols will be communicated to families and stakeholders through the school’s customary communication channels.

Masks
- Masks are recommended by both the CDC and ODH to be worn indoors for individuals who are not fully vaccinated. Masks may always be worn, and are encouraged. However, our DOY schools will not require the use of masks, except in the following instances:

- Masks must be worn on the school bus, as it is considered public transportation, thus falling under federal law.

- Masks may be required for a period of time in the event of a school COVID outbreak, or the local health department deems it to be a necessary step due to local circumstances.

Considerations:
As parents are deciding the masking choice best for their child, we invite you to also consider the following:

- There may be some children in your child’s class who may be more vulnerable or whose family has suffered from loss due to COVID. These families may feel as strongly about wearing masks as some feel about not wearing one. Respect for either parental choice should be shown.

- Consider the bigger picture when making your masking choice. Administrators and teachers reported very little concern on the part of students last year; they were pretty adaptable. Particularly during an uptick in cases in the area, the more loving thing to do may be to wear a mask; especially if we become face to face with the delta variant.

- Whatever your decision, please speak with your children about your expectations that they are respectful of their other classmates, regardless of the mask choice of the family.

Vaccinations
Vaccinations for COVID are not required in the Diocese of Youngstown. However, vaccination is the leading public health strategy available to slow the spread and hopefully put an end to this disease. We strongly encourage families to consult with their health care providers regarding vaccination decisions. Currently, children ages 12 and up do have an option for the vaccine.

Social Distancing
- Regular occupancy numbers in classrooms, lunchrooms, and other spaces may resume, with adherence to the three-foot physical distance recommended by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics as much as possible.

- Attendance at school Masses is an individual pastor/school decision. Social distancing to the degree possible is strongly encouraged.

- School access to visitors and volunteers during the school day will continue to be limited as schools assess health and safety routines.

- Schools may consider a hybrid approach to parent meetings; however, in-person meetings after school hours are permitted with attention to safety.

Other Mitigation Measures
Continuation of these successful strategies from 2020-2021
- Frequent Hand-Washing

- Intentional Cleaning and Disinfection

- Attention to improving Ventilation

- Public water fountains will remain closed.

Health and Safety Assessment
Assess at Home: Parents are asked to keep children home with any signs of infectious disease and seek advice from a health care professional for needed care and/or testing.

- Last school year our schools reported very little illness; attributed to all of the protocols that were in place, including parent vigilance in keeping their children home when sick. Local health departments are predicting a rise in flu and other communicable diseases. Thus we ask families to follow their normal flu shot routine in conjunction with their local health care provider.

Assess at School: In collaboration with their school health professional, each school will determine health assessment protocols.

- Consult the school’s sick/ absence policy in the family handbook.

Contact Tracing and Exposure: Schools will report any student cases of COVID-19 as required to their local health department and follow their guidelines for quarantining and contact tracing.

- A fully vaccinated person is not required to quarantine. While it is not required that proof of vaccination be submitted at this time, proof will need to be shown in order to exempt a person from any required quarantine.

Instruction
Our schools will be operating fully in person for the 2021-2022 school year. Being face to face with our students best fosters the Catholic community that is the signature mission of our schools, and provides the best environment for learning. We encourage parents to be diligent in sending their children to school when they are not ill, as consistent attendance is a positive factor in student achievement. Remote learning will only be utilized if a school closure becomes necessary due to health conditions.

More information will be provided by your school. Please do not hesitate to reach out to your principal or to our office if you have any questions.

Thank you for your support of Catholic Schools.

Sincerely in Christ,

Mary Fiala
Superintendent of Schools

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