Dear Friends, Families and Colleagues in Catholic Education,

Instead of hoping and wondering if this letter finds you well, let me ask: how are you? Sincerely, in this time of continuing upheaval, how are you feeling? How are you and your family handling what has certainly been an onerous and unsettling experience that has disrupted our routine?

So many of you are experiencing a range of emotions as we start the new school year unlike any we have ever experienced. The joy and anticipation of children learning with their friends are mixed with anxiety and apprehension over necessary protocols to reduce a constant health threat. How you and your family members are feeling is a critical part of moving forward. So, how are you feeling? I ask because acknowledging those feelings is the first step in deciding the most appropriate plan for your situation.

The well-being and safety of our students, faculty and staff are the foremost concern of all of us across the Diocese’s nearly two dozen Catholic schools. We are excited to begin the new school year, but I want to be clear: We would not be reopening our schools if we did not feel confident in our ability to do so safely. We have planned the reopening of each of our schools meticulously and have been just as detailed in formulating contingency plans should the need arise to change course.

Yet, even as we follow the guidance of public health experts, we recognize that families have different levels of comfort and must weigh individual factors during this pandemic, which is why we are providing remote learning options in addition to in-class instruction. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to educating our students.

Each school has its own state-approved, building-specific reopening plan, and our diocesan-wide commitment to accompanying children on their spiritual journey continues unabated. You can be assured of our increased vigilance for the physical, mental and emotional health and safety of all who are part of our communion of schools.

This will indeed be a year like no other, but our core values have prepared us well to overcome these obstacles. Our schools are welcoming, and we look forward to embracing the many new students this fall who joined our extended family over the summer. Our school communities are small, allowing for proper social distancing and individualized attention. Our schools are filled with caring and committed educators who put children at the center of all that they do.

The work all of you have undertaken since March — from teachers reinventing classroom instruction to families supporting students through remote learning at home to principals reconfiguring school spaces — has truly exemplified the spirit and mission of Catholic education. My confidence for the 2020-21 school year is based on our shared experience and inspiring support that I have witnessed daily.

While welcoming smiles may be covered by masks this year, nothing can obscure the care, commitment, warmth and gratitude in our hearts. I am certain you will be able to see it in our eyes.

I have been in education for almost two decades, but the nervous exhilaration of a new school year never wanes, even in this most unusual of years. I imagine many of you are feeling conflicting emotions about the school year and what is to come.

That is why we truly want to know, how are you feeling? Not the rote “how are you?” followed by an obligatory “I am fine.” Our lifelong Catholic values and empathy toward others is so important at this time. I urge you to let us know if you are feeling unsure, optimistic, apprehensive, blessed. You name it! Give yourself, and others, permission to feel, and to express those feelings honestly. And know that you are not alone.

We are here for you and for the children entrusted to our care. Lean on the network of support within our schools — our pastors, principals, teachers, the Catholic School Office and myself. And we will once again accomplish great things together this year. I feel certain of it!


Sincerely,

Giovanni Virgiglio
Superintendent of Schools