St. Thomas Academy, Visitation close after parent diagnosed with COVID-19; archdiocese outlines plan for potential Catholic school closures

| March 12, 2020 | 0 Comments

The parent of a St. Thomas Academy student has tested positive for COVID-19, and the Mendota Heights school has canceled classes and activities for March 12-13 “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a school leader.

Neighboring Visitation School has also closed also out of caution because of its shared programs with St. Thomas Academy.

“While this individual has not been on campus, we are working with the family to gather more information,” Rear Admiral John Crowley Jr., the school’s interim headmaster, said in a March 11 email to school families. “We are also working with the local health agencies to determine the appropriate course of action.”

St. Thomas Academy is a Catholic, all-boys military middle school and high school.

Next week is the school’s spring break, and students were already scheduled to be off campus.

In a March 12 email to parish and Catholic school leaders in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Bishop Andrew Cozzens outlined how the archdiocese will review and communicate about coronavirus-related closures of the 90 Catholic schools in the archdiocese.

“Following the guidance/recommendations of public health officials in our shared effort to help shield everyone, especially vulnerable populations and the elderly, from the possibility of contracting COVID-19, the archdiocese will review and coordinate decisions to close Catholic schools in the 12-county territory,” said Bishop Cozzens, the archdiocese’s vicar for education. “Recognizing that our 91 Catholic schools are spread across 12 counties and even more school districts, we need to ensure a coordinated approach. We know that these decisions and communications are a particular challenge in Catholic schools with limited staffing resources.”

The archdiocese’s four-page plan provides several scenarios for considering school closure. It stipulates that before a public announcement, multiple school leaders should review any recommendation to close and contact Jason Slattery, the archdiocese’s director for Catholic education. A recommendation to close will be confirmed with the archdiocese, and communications about the closure will be coordinated by the archdiocese and the school within 24 hours of the decision.

“Should it become necessary to announce a decision to close all Catholic schools in the 12 counties, we will communicate with as much advanced notice as possible,” Bishop Cozzens said in the email.

“I realize that this sounds somewhat alarming and believe that is appropriate,” he said. “While trying to keep our students focused on their studies, I urge you to make plans without delay for the possibility of needing to close school for an undetermined period of time. Now is a good time to remind families of where to look for any announcements about school closures or changes in school schedules. It is a good time to speak with teachers on how best to discreetly equip students for the possibility of being out of school.”

The archdiocese is taking steps “out of caution,” he continued.

“We have a particular concern for students, especially, in our most vulnerable communities, where coming to school is a place where they have meals served and additional care during times of crisis,” he said. “It is difficult to imagine how our parents will manage this challenge. These are not ordinary times; the demands of the Gospel move us to find ways to show charity and care for those in need.”

In his salutations, Bishop Cozzens said he was “seeking the intercession of Our Lady, Comfort of the Sick” and offering his prayers.

“Let’s together trust in Jesus, who throughout the ages in times of uncertainty and trial, never fails us,” he said.

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Category: Local News