CHICAGO - The Archdiocese of Chicago announced Tuesday that Catholic schools will be returning to near-normal, pre-pandemic operations for next school year.
School masses, athletics, music programs and field trips will be back.
Masks will not be required for vaccinated students and staff.
The Archdiocese said it will continue to follow select safety protocols.
"We are excited to be resuming extracurricular activities and other operations that were halted during the pandemic," said Justin Lombardo, chief human resources officer and chair of the Archdiocesan COVID-19 Task Force. "These safety guidelines will be reassessed, as necessary, during the academic year to ensure safe operations. And, for the sake of everyone's health and our collective ability to fully overcome the COVID-19 virus, we will continue to encourage vaccinations for faculty, staff and students over the age of 12."
The archdiocese based its updated protocols on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health in addition to a team of medical advisers and a COVID-19 task force. The CDC released guidance earlier this month suggesting fully vaccinated individuals do not need to wear masks in schools.
However, the American Academy of Pediatrics released its own guidance on Monday urging universal masking in schools for all students and staff members over the age of 2, regardless of vaccination status. Kids under 12 are still ineligible for any COVID-19 vaccine.
Archdiocese of Chicago return to operations plan:
- There will no longer be cohorts; however, every classroom will maintain an assigned seating chart since any necessary quarantines will be limited to only the students in closest proximity to any COVID-19-positive student (i.e., fellow students seated in front, back, left or right).
- All extracurricular activities, athletics, theater, music, clubs, field trips, etc., will resume.
- Resuming before- and after-care programs.
- Library and computer labs will reopen.
- Wellness checks and staggered drop-off/pick-up schedules will no longer be required.
- Students who are ill or are experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms MUST stay home.
- Schools will follow prevailing local health department guidelines concerning quarantines.
- Classrooms and activities will be arranged to maintain 3 feet of physical distancing indoors whenever possible.
- Schools will maintain daily cleaning procedures for desks and high traffic areas.
- Students and staff will be encouraged to sanitize hands upon arrival to classroom and throughout the day as a good hygiene practice, as well as use water bottles instead of drinking directly from water fountains.
Safety guidelines for those who are unvaccinated will be released in early August.