Plans for getting back-to-school

Aug 5, 2021

ORLANDO | As parents and children make plans for the long-awaited return to school, the COVID-19 pandemic takes yet another turn. Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Henry Fortier, and his staff are working with teachers and parents to insure a safe in-classroom experience come Aug. 11.

“When we finished last year, there was a sense of relief that we were finally getting on the other side of this pandemic,” Fortier said. “With the vaccines, there was lots of hope. As the past two weeks have unfolded, it has brought everybody back to the realization that we’re not done with this yet. That we really have to let science do its part and then we do our part.”

Fortier assures that there will be a safe return to schools. Last year transmission of the virus was kept low due to numerous protocols put in place. This year, he is taking it up a notch. Students’ desks will continue to be socially distanced, three feet apart. Rather than have clear screens, which do not contain viral spread, all Catholic schools in the Diocese of Orlando have undergone HVAC inspection. He noted, “We have tested the air quality in all of our schools, the air exchange systems and HVAC systems in every classroom have been cleaned and adjusted to optimize performance, fixing any issues they may have found.”

Perhaps the most effective preventative is the installation of UVC lighting at the coils on all school HVAC systems, begun Aug. 2nd. According to Fortier, “It’s one of a few scientifically proven methods to purify the air. It kills 99% of all mold, flu virus, and COVID.” He said, “It’s going to benefit us overall in all the air systems in our schools. Because we know this virus can be airborne, these systems will be constantly working and cleaning the air for us – to halt the spread of the virus within our classrooms.” UVC lighting is a method of air sanitation that works by disrupting the DNA of the virus, making it impossible to replicate. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicates UVC radiation has been shown to destroy the outer protein coating of the SARS-Coronavirus.

Temperature checks will not occur as it was found only to disrupt the day and was not an effective measure of viral detection as many students were asymptomatic. “We were able to keep our kids safe last year and we are finding, because we’re dealing with the Delta variant, we’re taking even greater measures to keep our kids safe in the classrooms.”

Fortier acknowledges high levels of frustration among parents as he received hundreds of emails sharing views on both sides of the mask debate. “I am trying my best to accommodate the wishes of the parents, but also listening to what our medical professionals and scientists say to ensure the safety of our kids,” he said.

A formal announcement will be made regarding the need to wear masks Aug. 9, allowing for the most up-to-date scientific data and recommendations from the CDC.

By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic, August 5, 2021