Saratoga Central Catholic School. (Cindy Schultz photo)
Saratoga Central Catholic School. (Cindy Schultz photo)

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that schools could reopen across the state, Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Albany are planning for Sept. 14 to be the first day of the school year.

“Our leaders, teachers and staff have been working assiduously to prepare reopening plans that welcome students back to the safe learning environment our schools are known for. At the same time, we respect that our longstanding success is built on the principle of parental choice,” said Giovanni Virgiglio, diocesan superintendent of schools. “As new, returning and prospective families review our schools’ reopening plans, they will see a variety of learning options at each grade level — in school, at home, or a hybrid of the two.

“Education is not one size fits all. If you have never considered our Catholic schools, now is the time. Safety has taken on a whole new meaning and we are committed to working with families to customize a learning plan that is tailored to their child — from pre-k up through high school.”

The first day of school for diocesan schools was originally slated to be Wednesday, Sept. 9, before it was moved. Now, Sept. 8-9 will be staff development days for schools to finish up any final preparations and Sept. 10-11 will be used to orient students to the new procedures.

On Aug. 7, Gov. Cuomo announced that all schools across New York State could resume in-person learning this fall due to the low infection rate across the state.

“It is just great news,” Cuomo said during the teleconference with reporters. “We are probably in the best situation in the country right now … If anyone can open schools, we can open schools. That’s true for every region in the state, period.”

Cuomo said as long as the daily infection rate remains below 5 percent — it is currently at 1 percent across the state — schools would remain open. Cuomo added all school districts must post to their websites three things: Remote learning plans, testing plans and contact-tracing plans. Students must wear a mask at all times; if students don’t have masks, the school must provide them. All districts must have three question-and-answer sessions — there will be five sessions in Albany — with families by Aug. 21 to go over their specific reopening plans.

School reopenings, however, in other states such as Indiana and Georgia have been followed by positive COVID-19 tests and quarantines, which has not assuaged the fears of some parents reluctant to send their children back to the classroom. These states have not instituted the strict health measures that experts say must be in place for students to return to school. Just last week, a photo of an overcrowded hallway in a Georgia high school showed no social distancing or masks being worn by the students.

There was also a troubling report released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association that showed at least 97,000 children across the United States had tested positive for the coronavirus in the last two weeks of July alone, bringing the total to 338,000 children testing positive through July 30.