Diocese Updates COVID Guidelines
Rockford Diocese Adopts Holiday Schedule for Schools, Cancels Basketball
By Penny Wiegert, Editor
November 12, 2020
DIOCESE—All Catholic elementary and high schools in the Diocese of Rockford will follow a special holiday and remote learning schedule already announced in the Diocese of Peoria and the Archdiocese of Chicago.
According to the Rockford Diocesan Office of Catholic Education,  “after careful consideration and discussions with our school administrators, consulting with the Diocese of Peoria and the Archdiocese of Chicago, we are proposing to shift our schools to remote learning to avoid multiple cohort quarantines due to holiday-infections.” 
The are several components of this plan.
Two weeks online learning from Jan. 4
All Rockford diocesan schools will pivot to virtual learning for two full weeks beginning Jan. 4. Schools will return to in-class instruction on Jan. 19 (the day 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 without the loss of instructional time and without jeopardizing students’ and staff members’ health. 
If there is a significant increase in COVID cases after Jan. 19, additional remote learning periods may be added for the health and safety of  students and staff members.
Remote learning will not begin before Jan. 4, 2021.  
Deep cleaning scheduled over break
School administrators will be asked to have their school buildings “deep cleaned” and “disinfected” during this remote learning period. 
School administrators will have the option of having their teaching staff teach remotely from school or home. Once the school building is disinfected, no one should be allowed in the building until in-class instruction starts again (this includes all outside groups that use the school building). 
Virus tracking continues
The diocesan Office of Education continues to track the seven-day infection rate data as a way to gauge the spread of the virus. 
“With our principals’ and teachers’ continued dedication and cooperation, our schools have successfully remained open and safe for everyone. All of our schools are diligently following all recommended protocols, which has kept our COVID cases to a minimum. We have had 93 reports of COVID from our schools resulting in 133 positive cases since the start of the academic year,” said Vito DeFrisco, assistant superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Rockford.
As the test positivity rate seven-day rolling averages in each Illinois region remains high and continues to climb, 
DeFrisco said most school parents have been cooperative in following COVID protocols outlined in the Diocesan School Reopening Plan and the directives adopted and implemented at each diocesan school.
“Unfortunately, when we have seen infection cases and had to move cohorts to remote learning quarantine periods, they have been traced back to family and social gatherings and out-of-school extracurricular activities,” he said.
“While public officials discourage gatherings during the Christmas season, we anticipate that some may choose to travel and visit family and loved ones during the holiday season,” he added. 
“We hope this plan will continue to provide in-person learning in a healthy, safe environment following the holidays,” DeFrisco said.
No basketball season
Parents of all six diocesan-run Catholic high schools were notified by letter that there will be no basketball this year.
The diocese opted to follow the governor’s guidelines regarding safe practices during the pandemic even though the Illinois High School Association approved boys and girls basketball. The IHSA decision was without approval  from  the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Board of Education.
The letter, jointly issued by Michael Kagan, diocesan superintendant of schools, and DeFrisco, told parents, “Our first and most important priority is the health and safety of all of our students, including our student athletes.”
They cited the high daily positive COVID rates, especially in counties within the diocese, as a concern leading to the decision. 
Schools covered by the decision are the six central Catholic high schools in the diocese: Aurora Central, Elgin St. Edward, Woodstock Marian Central, Rockford Boylan, Freeport Aquin, and Sterling Newman.
Rosary High School and Marmion Academy, both in Aurora, are not included in the diocesan decision because they are operated by Springfield Dominicans and Marmion Abbey Benedictines, respectively.
Rosary had not decided as of press deadline but expected by the end of this week to know if they will play basketball. 
Marmion athletic director Paul Chabura said, “We will not be holding basketball competitions, but will be conducting basketball practices on Nov. 16, according to the new IDPH guidelines — no scrimmages, just skill work.”
Chabura also said a lot of negative answers to an IHSA survey this week asking schools if they were planning to play their scheduled games might cause the state high school association to change its stance.


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