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Local Catholic grade schools remain open

By Joe Boyle
The Chicago Archdiocese officials said that remote learning may return to local schools following Thanksgiving break due to a precaution as a result of rising COVID-19 positivity rates the past month.
However, none of those schools are in Evergreen Park, Hickory Hills and Oak Lawn.
School officials at Most Holy Redeemer, 9536 S. Millard Ave., and Queen of Martyrs, 3550 W. 103rd St., in Evergreen Park, said that there are no plans for now to go to remote learning when they were contacted on Monday.
A representative at St. Patricia Elementary School, 9000 S. 86th Ave., Hickory Hills, said their doors are still open.
“We are still open for school,” the St. Patricia representative said late Monday afternoon. “We still have people here right now.”
The same can be said for the Oak Lawn schools. St. Catherine of Alexandria, 10621 S. Kedvale Ave.; St. Linus, 10400 S. Lawler Ave.; St. Gerald, 9320 S. 55th Court; and St. Germaine, 9735 S. Kolin Ave., were all in session on Monday afternoon.
Representatives at the Oak Lawn schools did not want to speak publicly but most said they have not been informed that remote learning is imminent.
The archdiocese has not released any specific details but a recent survey of parents, teachers and administrators had 80 percent of schools wanting to stay in-person while 20 percent did not.
Those schools who do not want to remain in the classroom will move to remote learning sometime after Thanksgiving. However, as of Monday, no details of the plan have been presented and none of the schools who want to go to remote learning have been mentioned.
The archdiocese reassures the overall community that there have been very few COVID-19 cases in its schools.
Manuel Gonzales, a spokesperson for the archdiocese, said that a plan was outlined this fall for elementary schools to go to remote learning for two weeks at the start of the new year following Christmas break.
But in regards to any schools going to remote learning after Thanksgiving, Gonzalez said it was “too soon to say which schools will be switching to remote learning.” Most of the 199 archdiocese schools in Cook and Lake counties have continued to offer in-person instruction to nearly 70,000 students.
Our Catholic school teachers and principals continue to do an outstanding job of providing in-person instruction during these unprecedented challenges,” according to a statement released by the archdiocese. “We have had fewer than 10 possible cases of secondary spread of the COVID-19 virus in our schools, and we remain extremely confident in our health and safety protocols.
“However, 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,” according to the archdiocese.
While Gonzales said cases of COVID-19 have been rare, he did not have a total count of cases at the Catholic elementary schools.
He added that presumed positive cases are reported to public health officials. The call for some remote learning after Thanksgiving takes into account that some families have gathered in homes over the holiday and that could result in the spread of COVID-19.
“This flexible approach takes into account the varying infection rates in different neighborhoods and communities throughout the archdiocese. 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,” according to the statement released by the archdiocese.
But Catholic elementary schools will go to remote learning after Christmas break. Schools will begin e-learning on Jan. 4 and are scheduled to return to classes on Jan. 19 after the Martin Luther King holiday.
“Moving to virtual learning for two weeks will allow families who choose to travel or attend family gatherings over the holidays to quarantine for 14 days without a loss of school days or learning time and without jeopardizing the health of other students and staff in their schools,” said Dr. Jim Rigg, superintendent of Catholic Schools.
Rigg added that in-person learning has been going well in Catholic schools.
“ In spite of the seriousness about the pandemic, we feel very good about how things are going in our Catholic schools,” Rigg said. “Our students, and parents and employees seem to have done a very good job of understanding and implementing the health and safety protocols of our plan.”

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