How Catholic schools in Philadelphia planned to keep students safe during the pandemic.

PHL17 Morning News

Doctor Andrew McLaughlin is the Secretary for Elementary Education for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools.

He says their schools were ready when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“When the order came to close we were really the next day. On Monday, we went to virtual learning,” he said. “We gave laptops to the students and they worked with their teachers to have Zoom instruction.”

That continued through the end of the school year, but then questions rose about how the 2020-2021 school year would work. That is when school leaders formed Catholic Schools Onward. It is a committee of 30 people that planned what a COVID-19 school year would look like down to the detail.

Doctor Joann Walls is the principal of Saint George Catholic School. She said that schools received input from teachers and students about the plan and adjusted it. Overall, Walls says it made everyone more self conscious of their actions.

“Since September, everyone has taken on that responsibility that my actions do impact the safety of another, she said. “Whether it is a teacher, student or parent.”

One of the biggest parts of the plan required putting students into groups to contain any possible infections.

“A whole classroom would do everything together. They would do lunch and recess,” said McLaughlin. “They would enter the building together and never mix with another group.”

The community also stepped into help as well. The Foundation for Catholic Education provided partitions for teachers.

“They were tested by some principals and we manufactured over 1700 of these teacher shields that we were able to put in every classroom in 102 of the elementary schools of the archdiocese of philadelphia,” said Jerry Parsons who is the Co-Chair of the Executive Board of Elementary Education and President of the Foundation for Catholic Education.

Since school has been in session, Doctor McLaughlin says that less than one percent of teachers and students have tested positive for COVID-19.

He says the committee still meets regularly.