All Catholic schools in Berkshires to reopen in the fall, diocese says

Third graders at St. Agnes Academy in Dalton study in their classroom in May 2019. The Diocese of Springfield has announced that all of its schools will reopen this year, including St. Agnes, St. Mary's School in Lee and St. Stanislaus Kostka School in Adams.

SPRINGFIELD — There will be full-time, in-classroom instruction this fall in the Catholic schools of the Diocese of Springfield, according to Daniel Baillargeon, superintendent of schools.

The diocese issued a statement on Monday outlining its initial fall plans to reopen schools, which include St. Agnes Academy in Dalton, St. Mary's School in Lee and St. Stanislaus Kostka School in Adams.

Baillargeon and Joshua Agnew, assistant superintendent of schools for the diocese, have been traveling to each school to meet with administrators to assess how each building meets health and safety requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have enough space to accommodate our current enrollment and we have limited space to accept new students," Baillargeon said. "Our schools can provide full-time care for students at this time which is really important for families."

Students in the 12 elementary and two Catholic high schools in the diocese have been learning remotely since mid-March when Gov. Charlie Baker ordered all schools shut to stop the spread of the disease.

Baillargeon said each school is large enough for students and staff to be able to properly social distance and that all school programs, including gym and music classes, will be held.

"We know in person, teacher-to-student instruction is the most effective way for students to learn," Baillargeon said. "That's why in observing all the social distancing requirements we have, we are designing all our schools in such a way to maximize this kind of instruction."

Most of the diocese schools will reopen before Labor Day.

Specific plans include:

- Desks in classrooms will be placed 6 feet apart.

- Students and teachers will wear personal protective equipment based on age and need.

- Buildings will be regularly cleaned and sanitized following local public health guidelines.

- Frequent hand washing will be practiced. Hand sanitizer will be provided and its use encouraged.

- Time outdoors will be encouraged and increased.

- School personnel will follow diocesan guidelines for safety.

- All schools will follow the diocesan directives for liturgy and students will be encouraged to attend Mass as part of their program.