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Archdiocese of Baltimore Catholic schools preparing for in-person instruction in fall, according to draft plan

The Archdiocese of Baltimore plans to accommodate as many students as possible for in-person classes five days a week, according to a draft plan for the 2020-21 school year released Thursday.

In the announcement, the Archdiocese stressed that reopening procedures are still being developed and will be finalized by July 24. An Archdiocese task force is working on a comprehensive plan for welcoming faculty and staff on Aug. 24 and students on Aug. 31 for instruction five days per week, the announcement states.

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Families who are uncomfortable with their children returning to in-person instruction will be able attend classes remotely from home, according to the announcement.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing the task force with technical assistance that will inform plans to safely return to in-person instruction, the announcement states. The Archdiocese said not every school would be able to accommodate all students according to those guidelines, and those schools would have a blend of in-person and online learning.

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The Archdiocese is developing curriculum plans for three modes of learning — in-person, hybrid and remote — and guidance for preparing school facilities to welcome students and staff back to campus.

Most Catholic school facilities under the Archdiocese’ purview will be able to accommodate students for in-person instruction while social distancing. Some schools, due to their size, will incorporate a blend of “in-person and remote learning that maximizes in-person instruction,” according to the announcement.

The Archdiocese has purchased more than 1,000 AMX Acendo Vibe camera/sound bar units, which are designed to enable educators to simultaneously instruct students learning at home and in the classroom. The plan says that, should remote learning be necessary, students in class and at home will participate at the same time.

Structures to support the social, emotional, and mental well-being of students, faculty, staff and families have also been established, the announcement states.

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An Archdiocese task force surveyed more than 700 guardians, students, faculty and staff representing 42 Catholic schools.

The survey reportedly found that parents favored in-person instruction, but that distance learning should be provided to families as an option. Respondents had lingering questions about the ability of students to wear masks and how to manage social distancing for younger students, particularly in pre-kindergarten, according to the announcement.

The Archdiocese memo noted that the survey results largely “do not align with public school decisions.” Some public school districts in the region, such as Harford and Howard counties, have already announced they will begin the school year virtually.

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