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Boston archdiocese schools are in session — with a spike in students

Students are back in the classroom at South Boston Catholic Academy in South Boston during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. First grade teacher Caroline Gannon dispensed sanitizer to each student before they entered the classroom.
Students are back in the classroom at South Boston Catholic Academy in South Boston during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. First grade teacher Caroline Gannon dispensed sanitizer to each student before they entered the classroom.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Schools in the Boston Archdiocese have opened for in-person classes and have gained nearly 4,000 students since July, when public schools announced delays and plans for remote learning, an official said Thursday.

The current enrollment across the archdiocese system stands at 30,664, said Thomas W. Carroll, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese. That number follows a bump in July after public schools announced delays for the start of school and plans for remote instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve gained 3,834 students since July 2020,” Carroll wrote in an e-mail.

Remote learning also remains an option for most students in the archdiocese. Carroll said “virtually all” Catholic schools are offering remote learning options.

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Carroll said the number of families opting for remote learning is somewhere between 5 and 10 percent.

The first archdiocese school opened in late August, he said, and most have reopened since, with the final ones slated to open next week.

According to Carroll, the schools are observing precautions set forth by state public health officials for in-person learning, including masks for all teachers and students in grades 2 and up, 3 to 6 feet of physical distancing, frequent sanitation, and requiring any students who manifest symptoms to learn remotely until local health authorities clear them to return to the classroom.

“We agreed with CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics that most kids would be better off in school,” Carroll wrote. “At the same time, we understood and respected that some parents were nervous. That’s why we offer both.”

Carroll said by phone that the archdiocese has had one positive case, a child in Methuen who’s now learning remotely, as are two or three of the student’s close contacts.

“We’ve taken the posture that we’re going to cooperate with all of the [local government] health officials," said Carroll, who leads a system of 99 schools that draw from more than 125 cities and towns in Massachusetts.

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That means, he said, that positive cases will immediately be reported to the relevant board of health. In addition, he said, archdiocese schools will abide by authorities' recommendations to either remain open for in-person learning or go all-remote as the year progresses.

Helenann Civian, principal of South Boston Catholic Academy, said in a phone interview that the first couple of weeks have gone smoothly at her school, with students and staff scrupulously adhering to the safety protocols.

“We surveyed parents, they want their children at school, as long as we’re safe,” Civian said.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.