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Local Catholic school classrooms not to reopen this academic year

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SAN DIEGO — Classrooms at San Diego and Imperial Valley Catholic schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the 15,000 students finishing their studies through distance learning.

Schools plan to hold high school commencement and eighth grade graduations when county health authorities permit such gatherings, perhaps in June or July, likely under guidelines for physical distancing.

The administrators at each of the diocese’s 49 elementary and secondary schools in San Diego and Imperial counties will communicate with parents the details of their year-end and summer activities.

Schools plan to open the new 2020-2021 academic year in the fall as scheduled, given that social restrictions have been lifted.

“In addition to being communities of faith and learning, each of our Catholic schools is like a family,” said John Galvan, director of the diocesan Office for Schools. “And like any family, we’re very disappointed in having to postpone events we’ve long planned for, and students looked forward to. At the same time, despite social distance, I have never experienced the Catholic school community so incredibly cohesive.”

Most dioceses in California also decided to keep their campuses closed for the rest of the year in response to the ongoing health restrictions.

As concern about the coronavirus grew, schools in the San Diego Diocese began to prepare for distance learning in February. Teachers received special training and needed technology was acquired. Galvan ordered classrooms to close on Friday, March 13, and the schools launched distance learning the following Monday.

Students and teachers began to use online platforms such as Zoom videoconferencing and Google Classroom to stay on track. By contrast, the South Bay Union School District launched its online learning on April 20 and San Diego Unified planned to launch its online learning on April 27.

“Since we had to put all of this together very quickly, we kept our focus on meeting the needs of our students and their families, and less on bureaucracy,” said one the diocese’s teachers, Teresina Ruiz, from Mater Dei Juan Diego Academy. “We have been very pleased with the feedback that we have received.”

Jaime Leicht, whose children attend Our Lady of Grace School, said she was impressed with the smoothness of the transition to distance learning.

“To see the kids on Zoom calls learning their lessons and doing math equations  is a true blessing right now.”

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