CLEVELAND — A group of parents and students held a rally outside the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Monday in support of keeping Catholic schools open for in-person learning.
“We are planned for in-person school,” Erin Lally said. “We are going forward with that plan.”
Superintendent Frank O’Linn announced Cleveland Catholic Diocese school campuses are planning to return to in-person classroom instruction five days a week.
“We are a faith-based organization. We’re educators of the Catholic Church, so we believe every person is a gift from God,” O’Linn said. “We’re going to respect the dignity of every person, every student, every family member and every teacher.”
Lally was vocal about her plans to send her four children back to school in just a few weeks, but said parents who believe in-person instruction is unsafe have the freedom to make that decision.
“Never before have schools offered a remote learning option and every school is offering a remote learning option,” Lally said. “So those parents have that choice to take the distance learning option and keep their kids at home.”
O’Linn said each school under the local diocese will finalize its own plans for how to begin the school year, whether that be in-person instruction five days a week or a hybrid model with some learning done online.
“Providing everyone the option to be remote if they choose it,” O’Linn said. “But doing what we can to ensure protections for those who want to be educated in person, or those who may not have a choice than to send their children somewhere other than their home for education.”
He added the diocese is aware of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health’s advisement late last week that all area schools should begin the year with remote learning.
However, because that was not a direct order, the diocese is moving forward as planned with face-to-face classroom instruction.
"It is a recommendation. It is not a mandate. We of course are bound by all laws, all directives, all orders and we carefully consider all recommendations,” O’Linn said. “At this point, this is a recommendation and we are carefully considering it today.”
Caitlin Varga is an incoming freshman and said the quick transition to online classes following Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay-at-home order created hurdles for students.
“Some people need extra help and it’s hard to do that when your Wi-Fi doesn’t work and stuff,” Varga said. “And it’s hard because you get stressed more because you can’t ask teachers questions like you can every second when you’re in school.”
Cael McChrystal echoed those sentiments.
“I couldn’t focus and I just couldn’t turn in things on time,” McChrystal said. “It was really hard for me.”
Pat Kennedy said he’s confident in the diocese and its plans to reopen campuses.
“My daughter has spent roughly the last four to five months in somewhat isolation,” Kennedy said. “I think it’s been detrimental to her mental and social health and I’d like to see things get back to where she can get in-person learning.”
When asked if it will be difficult for teachers to enforce mask guidelines during the school day, Lally compared masks to standardized dress guidelines.
“People have said that for years about a uniform. It is unrealistic to expect students to wear a uniform and keep their shirt tucked in and wear a belt and have their hair cut above their neck,” Lally said.
O’Linn did not elaborate specifically on social distancing guidelines and sanitization procedures at individual campuses.
“If you can imagine we’ve got different sizes of buildings, different numbers of students,” O’Linn said. “But yes, pretty much every one of the CDC strategies, every one of the recommendations, we’re putting in place in some way or another.”