Health & Safety Guidance for the 2021-2022 School Year for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Lansing

Updated August 18, 2021

This document shall serve as the health and safety guidance for all Catholic schools in the Diocese of Lansing (DOL) for the 2021-2022 school year. This guidance is based upon our Catholic understanding of the human person and our partnership with families to provide an authentic Catholic education. This understanding and partnership compels us to care for the entire well-being of our students, faculty and staff. Our understanding of well-being includes the spiritual, mental, physical, emotional, and social well-being. Because of this holistic approach, we developed our plans with the below aim:

  • To conduct in-person learning as much as possible, with as few restrictions and disruptions as possible.
  • When restrictions are implemented, to start with those measures that are least intrusive to an effective learning environment and the well-being of our students, teachers, and staff.

This plan is also guided by our increased understanding of COVID-19: its limited spread in our highly mitigated school settings, current national and local data and research, and increased vaccination rates. Preschool and Latchkey programs that operate in licensed facilities are required to adhere to LARA regulations. The guidance provided in this document may be updated at any time if revisions are made to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) guidance for schools.

In addition to the guidance provided by the DOL, our schools are expected to keep open communication with their local health departments. To support schools throughout the school year, the DOL will continue to provide general parameters and guidance concerning quarantine and isolation activities for positive COVID-19 cases and close contacts, testing, and other health and safety related issues. However, the first contact a school must make is to their local health department for guidance once they become aware of positive or possible case(s) of COVID-19.

Schools are encouraged to communicate the health and safety policies and protocols to their school communities early and often. The DOL will continue to monitor any changes in federal and state guidance, vaccine updates, and other critical information and communicate these changes to schools so that they can make informed decisions.

Schools remain one of the safest places for students, teachers, and school staff with regard to mitigating COVID-19 exposure. Our goal is to give all students the opportunity for safe, in-person learning, five days a week. At this time, Catholic schools in the DOL are no longer required to provide a distance learning option for students/families. Each school should determine if/how services and educational programming will be provided if a student must remain home for short periods of time due to illness, isolation, or quarantine.

Note: Schools may develop and implement policies and protocols that are stricter than LARA, MDHHS, or DOL guidelines.  This will most likely  happen in response to local virus transmission data and local health department orders.

Vaccination

  • Under Catholic teaching, vaccination must be voluntary. At the same time, vaccination plays an important role in reducing the spread and severity of COVID-19 and we encourage all to consider whether vaccination is right for them.[1]
  • The expectations of length of quarantine may differ for vaccinated vs. unvaccinated individuals. Therefore, an employee or student may be required to provide proof of their vaccination status to determine appropriate quarantine if they are in close contact with a positive case of COVID-19.
  • The CDC and MDHHS state that one way to protect the health of children is to ensure that all eligible populations in a household are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

  • The CDC, MDHHS, and local health department recommendations continue to evolve over time. The current CDC recommendation for schools is:
    • CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.
  • At this time, there is not a State mandate that requires masks, likewise, the DOL will not require the use of masks at school/school events. Schools must allow individuals (students and staff) to wear masks if they choose.

Hygiene

  • Schools should continue to utilize the CDC Guidance for cleaning, disinfection, and hand washing.
  • Schools will promote proper handwashing and covering of coughs and sneezes.
  • Schools will clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces on a regular basis.
  • Schools will improve ventilation by opening doors and windows, using child-safe fans, and making changes to HVAC or air filtration systems when possible.

Spacing, Movement, and Access

  • Outdoor learning experiences and dining are encouraged whenever possible.
  • The use of physical barriers, such as plexiglass shields, is no longer recommended, per the CDC.
  • Teachers should maintain seating charts with assigned student seats as much as possible to assist with contact tracing when necessary.
  • It is recommended that schools use social distancing and physical distancing to the extent possible to help limit the need for quarantining in the event of a positive COVID-19 case in the school.  Schools should work with their local health departments to understand the local expectations for quarantining and social distancing and adjust their plans accordingly.
  • Students and staff may travel between classrooms.
  • School visitors may enter the school building, but limits should still be considered and determined by each school.  A log of all visitors is required. Logs should document the date, contact information, and arrival/departure times.

Screening Students and Staff

  • Parents/guardians should monitor their children for symptoms of infectious illness every day through home-based symptom screening.  This approach relies on students and their caregivers to identify when the student might have symptoms of infectious illness.
  • Staff members should monitor their health for symptoms of infectious illness every day.
  • Staff and students who are sick or displaying symptoms of infectious illness should remain home and seek medical care when necessary.
  • Students and staff who become ill at school with signs or symptoms of Covid-19 will be placed in an identified quarantine area until they can be picked up and/or sent home.

Covid-19 Testing Protocols

  • At this time, no school-based testing protocols are recommended.

Responding to Positive COVID-19 Cases and Close Contacts

  • Schools will follow all reporting requirements of state and local Health Department Orders regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Schools will continue to work with their county Health Department to establish close contacts and quarantine recommendations.
  • Families will be notified of the presence of any laboratory positive or clinically diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the classroom and/or school to encourage closer observation for any symptoms at home. Parents/guardians and staff shall notify school administration immediately of any possible case of COVID-19.

Gatherings and Extracurricular Activities

  • It is recommended that three feet of distance is maintained between individuals during indoor dining.
  • Liturgical and non-liturgical group gatherings and extracurricular activities are allowed at this time.
  • Field trips may resume, with participants following all the safety measures of the trip’s destination.
  • Before/after school care programs must follow LARA guidelines and requirements.

Athletics

  • At this time, there are no COVID-19 related restrictions or requirements for athletics.
  • Updated guidance from MHSAA shall be followed by all schools.

Busing and Student Transportation

  • While the DOL is not requiring masks at school/school events, the use of facial coverings are required by federal order on school buses and other forms of public transportation in the United States.
  • There are no capacity restrictions for school transportation for the 2021-2022 school year.
  • It is recommended that household members sit together in the same seat when possible.
  • Bus personnel should continue to maintain seating charts with assigned student seats as much as possible to assist with case investigation and contact tracing when needed.
  • Bus windows should be opened as much as possible to improve ventilation.

Mental & Social-Emotional Health

  • Schools will foster an environment of Christian charity and respect for others’ decisions regarding vaccination status and use of masks.
  • School personnel will continue to monitor the spiritual, mental, physical, social, emotional and academic well-being of all students and staff, providing intervention, assistance, and support when needed.

The Diocese of Lansing and the Office of Catholic Schools are extremely grateful for the heroic, diligent efforts by all students, families, and school staff members that allowed for in-person learning to take place in our Catholic schools during the 2020-21 school year. We are looking forward to continuing our commitment to in-person learning with our students, which we firmly believe is the most effective means of walking together on our journey as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ.

Dear teachers and parents, the Catholic school is in your hands. It is a reflection of your convictions. Its very existence depends on you. It is one of those privileged places, together with the family and the parish community, where our faith is handed on. The Catholic school is a community effort, one that cannot succeed without the cooperation of all concerned - the students, the parents, the teachers, the principals and pastors.” (Address of Pope John Paul II to Catholic Educators, 1984)


[1] Each of the three major vaccines approved in the U.S. have a connection to abortion (whether in origin or in testing) and hence present a moral question. The duty to protect one’s own health and the duty to pursue the common good may justify vaccination. Whether one chooses to be vaccinated or not, Catholics should urge pharmaceutical companies not to use abortion-derived cell lines. (See https://www.usccb.org/resources/letters-pharmaceutical-companies.)