As coronavirus surges across the city, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced that some Catholic schools will move to remote learning following the Thanksgiving holiday this week.
Archdiocese spokesperson Manuel Gonzales commended teachers and principals in a statement, saying educators "continue to do an outstanding job of providing in-person instruction during these unprecedented challenges."
Here is a message from the statement:
"In light of the recent rise in the general infection rate, and the warnings about travel during the holidays, the Office of Catholic Schools and the Archdiocese COVID Task Force, surveyed parents, principals and other school employees early last week to gauge their comfort with in-person learning in December. In 80 percent of schools, there was strong support to stay the course of providing in-person and remote learning options. On Friday, we notified the other 20 percent of schools that we would work with them on any need for alternate plans, which may include moving to remote learning for some or all of the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s too soon to say which schools will be switching to remote learning."
Gonzales added that the Archdiocese has had fewer than 10 "possible cases of secondary spread" of the coronavirus in schools due to health and safety protocols already in place.
Because schools are spread out across the city, the new approach takes into consideration the varying infection rates among neighborhoods and communities, Gonzales said in the statement.
"We have always said that we will respond to the continued evolution of the pandemic and continue working with local health departments to keep the safety and wellbeing of our students and employees our top priority," he wrote.
Last week, the Archdiocese announced several changes to protocols to ensure safety during church services across the state.
“We are confident that our protocols continue to work in safeguarding the health of clergy, staff and parishioners, while mitigating any spread of infection in our churches,” Bishop Robert Casey, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Chicago, said in a statement.
Here’s a look at the updated guidance from the Archdiocese of Chicago:
Masses and Sacraments
- Masses and sacramental celebrations remain with the attendance limits a parish received at certification during the reopening efforts – this includes wedding and funeral Masses within the church.
- However, for wakes and funeral vigils, please note that clergy and bereavement ministers do not need to attend/minister if there are concerns that attendance might exceed the statewide limit of 10 persons.
- Regarding final committals:
- Any graveside final committal must observe the limitations on attendance of 10 persons, physically distanced and wearing facial coverings at the gravesite. Others may participate from their vehicles.
- Any final committal conducted within a cemetery chapel must observe the limit of no more than 25% of the room’s capacity. All attendees must maintain six feet of physical distance and use facial coverings.
Operations and administration
- Parish staff that can complete their work at home should continue to do so until further notice. Pastors and parish team leaders are encouraged to think critically before requiring anyone to come into the office for any reason.
- As previously communicated, all non-church gatherings must observe the current statewide limit of 10 people. And given the current advisory to stay at home, there may be no in-person meetings on parish grounds unless absolutely essential. The current norm is for all meetings to be conducted virtually.
Under current guidelines, the state recommends gatherings of no more than 10 people. Where the 10-person limit cannot be followed in places of worship, a capacity limit that allows for extensive social distancing of at least six feet between congregants is recommended.