Dear Catholic School Families,
While the diligent application of our protocols has meant we have had few secondary infections that can be traced to contact within our churches or schools, there have been times when multiple school cohorts or even an entire school has been quarantined to keep staff and students safe. We prepared for this possibility and communicated about it before the opening of parishes and the start of the school year. Shared below are the factors that lead to a schoolwide quarantine. It is important to highlight that your principal is following the guidance provided by our COVID-19 Task Force and Office of Catholic schools.
Factors that lead to Parish or Schoolwide Quarantine
Our task force, working with input from local parish and school leadership, monitors these critical factors daily to determine what actions, if any, are necessary:
Our Task Force considers these factors in their totality – no single factor drives the decision to move a parish or entire school into quarantine. However, it should be noted that the presence of multiple factors at the same time contributes to a higher level of scrutiny and could foreshadow a potential pivot to quarantine and remote instruction. In addition, we are in close contact with the local departments of public health both to obtain ongoing guidance and to support their contact tracing efforts.
- Absolute number of reports in a rolling 14-day period – includes the total number of reports submitted by a parish or school stating the number of parishioners OR students/faculty/staff who:
- have tested positive for COVID-19, or
- are presumptive positive (and possibly awaiting test results), or
- are close contacts of another individual who has tested positive for COVID-19
- Number of COVID-19-positive cases in a rolling 14-day period – total number of reports submitted by a parish or school stating the number of parishioners OR students/faculty/staff who have tested positive.
- Breadth of cases across grades and cohorts – a determination of whether cases are confined to a single grade or two, or if they are prevalent across multiple grades and cohorts in schools or large groups in parishes.
- Presence of multiple cases within cohorts – multiple COVID-19 cases within a cohort even if they are not related or traced back to a single point of transmission.
- Degree to which staff are affected – an assessment of whether the necessary leadership and administration staff are available to continue ministry and operations.
- High COVID-19 conversion rates for close exposures – the number of individuals who are at one point deemed only a close contact or presumptive positive case but are later confirmed to be a COVID-19 positive case.
- Outside activities with a propensity for spread – out-of-school/parish events and family activities that have the potential for generating additional infections.
In all instances, the decision to quarantine a school cohort or entire school rests with the Task Force and the Office of Catholic Schools. The decision to quarantine a parish (effectively moving all Masses online and suspending other public liturgies or sacramental celebrations and closing parish offices and other services) rests with the Task Force and the Vicar General.
Again, our parishes and schools have been doing a tremendous job of following the stringent protocols we established. For this reason, our parishes and schools are places of relatively low secondary infection spread.
Yours in Christ,
Jim Rigg, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools