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Steubenville diocese plans traditional instruction this year

STEUBENVILLE — Unless state or local officials tell them otherwise, the Diocese of Steubenville says its schools will offer traditional, “face-to-face” instruction for the 2020-21 school year.

Permanent Deacon Paul D. Ward, director of the Diocese of Steubenville’s Office of Christian Formation and Schools, said all 11 diocesan schools will open in the fall.

“Many decisions will need to be made by each individual Catholic school, with policies developed in partnership with local health officials and possibly neighboring public school districts,” Ward said, adding remote instruction will be an option “only in such cases when state or local authorities have mandated — not simply recommended — that school buildings be closed.”

If that were to happen, “Catholic schools will then make every use of streaming technology and distance learning tools, in order to continue providing instruction and learning support while students remain at home, as was the case last spring,” Ward said.

“As long as our buildings are permitted to remain open, diocesan schools will not offer families a long-term option of traditional classroom instruction versus remote or distance learning,” he said. “The only long-term option to be offered families who choose to place their children in our schools will be traditional, onsite classroom instruction.

“However, in the event that a teacher or student or group of students are unable to report to school for on-site instruction or learning because they have tested positive for COVID-19, or are in quarantine by order of the local health department or a doctor’s recommendation, schools will make every effort to provide temporary accommodations for both teacher and students.”

Athletic programs must adhere to guidance from the Ohio High School Athletic Association regarding school athletic activities.

Mary Seat of Wisdom Montessori School, meanwhile, is also making plans for the new school year, though Director Maggie Dobbins said the staff is focused on developing an outdoor curriculum. That doesn’t mean they aren’t taking necessary precautions in the building as well, she noted.

“Our advantage is the approach we take to education,” Dobbins said. “The children can work outside because they are working on projects that fascinate them. They aren’t concerned where they work, they just love working.”

Dobbins said they’ve divided their school building into three different pods for each group of students.

“Each class (pod) has its own entrance, bathroom, courtyard, classroom, cloak-room and hand washing area,” she said. “We are focusing on developing our outdoor curriculum. This has always been inherent to the Montessori Method.”

Dobbins said the staff started taking serious precautions in February, and that’s not going to change when classes resume this fall: She said they sanitize surfaces frequently throughout the day, and before kids can use a material they must wash their hands.

“One of the very first lessons a child learns when they come to a Montessori school is how to properly wash their hands,” she adds. ”

Dobbins said the school also purchased an electrostatic cleaner.

“We have a commitment to be as natural as possible while also making sure we are keeping the school clean and sanitary,” she said, adding, “Our back-to-school list this year includes rain boots and rain jackets, extra sweaters, snow boots and snow suits. We truly plan to be outside. We have an 11-acre campus and we plan to use it.”

Steubenville City Schools previously announced its staff is preparing for a traditional school year, a combination of remote and in-person instruction or adopting remote instruction entirely, depending on the risk level for contracting the virus determined by public health officials. Parents also have an option to keep their children home to participate in remote learning, though they have to sign up by Friday. Those who do choose remote learning for their kids will have to stick with it for the entire semester.

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