Update: Catholic schools to remain closed through April 24

Karen Musacchio helps her son Christopher Musacchio, a fourth grader at Christ the King School in Nashville, with his classroom assignments from home March 24, 2020. The Diocese of Nashville has announced that Catholic schools will remain closed through April 24, but schools are continuing to teach classes online and are offering resources and materials to help students continue learning from home. Photo by Rick Musacchio

The Diocese of Nashville has announced that all Catholic schools in the diocese will remain closed through April 24 as requested by Gov. Bill Lee under the advisement of public health officials. 

In a letter to Catholic school families dated March 26, Superintendent of Schools Rebecca Hammel outlined the Catholic Schools Office’s plan for extended learning at home and keeping students, families, and teachers connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Our diocesan Catholic schools remain committed to the mission shared with you when you enrolled your child(ren): to nurture their growth of mind, body, and soul in a Christ-centric environment,” Hammel wrote. “While recent developments challenge our traditional delivery, our ‘learning from home plans’ provide as much normalcy as current conditions allow and they also reunite classmates and teachers, even if only digitally,” she said. 

“Please know that the principals, the CSO team, and I are in regular and frequent communication through digital meetings, emails and texts. We are all navigating these unchartered waters together and I’m quite proud of what they have accomplished in a short period of time. I am also grateful for the patience you have exercised with us,” Hammel continued. “Through our weekly meetings with principals, we discuss the successes and shortfalls of our ‘learning at home plans,’ and amend as needed,” she said.

In the letter, Hammel also made families aware of the following:

• All school-related trips/travel have been cancelled through the end of the year.

• Catholic schools will fall under the waiver for Tennessee’s required school day count, which Commissioner Penny Schwinn has granted. 

“This means schools will not have to make up any days to meet the 180-day requirement,” Hammel wrote. “Parochial schools choose to be accredited by the state, meaning there are certain state requirements they must meet, and attendance is one of them. Catholic schools count ‘learning at home days’ as school days, which is why it is important that they have evidence of students’ participation (presence in online meetings, completed assignments, time on task in computer programs, etc.).”

• The State Board of Education has an emergency meeting in early April, when it will promulgate new rules for graduation, grading, and other pertinent school operations to be in effect during this time of crisis. Hammel and her team will monitor their guidance and work with Catholic schools accordingly. 

“Again, some of their rules will apply, some will not,” she wrote. “In no way will the quality of our program nor our commitment to teaching during this time be minimized.”

• The Catholic Schools Office also holds membership in the Independent Schools of the Nashville Area (ISNA). They are engaging in conversations with heads of local independent schools and monitoring actions taken by the group. The CSO is also in frequent communication with the Dominican Sisters and their local campus as well.

In her letter to families, Hammel also noted that Holy Week is approaching and each school will have special events planned for digital interaction. “School schedules for Holy Week will not change, it is most important that your family has ample time to participate in special commemorations together at home,” she said. 

No “learning from home” sessions will take place on Good Friday or Easter Monday.

The Catholic Schools Office is looking at ways “to continue the time-honored traditions of May Crowning, graduations, sports banquets, and field days,” Hammel said.  “We do not know the form these events will take yet, but will work with schools to find creative new ways to carry them forward.”  

In a separate announcement on March 30, Hammel informed pastors, school administrators and athletic directors “all diocesan-sponsored school sporting events for kindergarten through eighth grade are suspended for the remainder of the school year. This decision gained full support of our Diocesan Athletic Council director, our school principals and our (Catholic Schools Office) staff.”

The Schools Office will continue to monitor the Tennessee Secondary Sports Athletic Association for information regarding high school sports, Hammel said. Currently, TSSAA is complying with the governor’s request to suspend all activities through April 24.

All other extra-curricular activities at Catholic schools in the diocese remain suspended through April 24, Hammel said.

Hammel encouraged families to continue to monitor www.dioceseofnashville.com for updates and be on the lookout for continued communication from their school administrators. 

“I again thank you for your patience. Know you are in my prayers for good health, safety, and spiritual growth as we journey through this Lenten season,” Hammel wrote. “Let us recall Jesus’ experiences of fear and uncertainty in the Garden of Gethsemane and align with Him these next couple of weeks. Our Easter is coming!”