Archdiocesan Catholic schools closed for remainder of academic year

By Dan Russo

Witness Editor

DUBUQUE — Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Dubuque will be closed for the remainder of the academic year due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, learning is continuing in some form for students at K-12 educational institutions and leaders are in discussions about how to address graduation ceremonies and other matters, according to school officials.

Superintendent of Schools Kim Hermsen explained April 20 that five high schools and five elementary or middle schools have opted to require continuous learning for students for the rest of the school year. At these schools, students will be given credit for their efforts. Two high schools and 37 elementary and middle schools have chosen to offer voluntary continuous learning, with “ongoing teacher communication to foster engagement.”

Schools that chose the voluntary continuous learning option may not grade students beyond March 13. Those students will have grades reported that were accurate at that time and schools involved in required continuous learning have some latitude to move to a pass/fail model or drop some courses, according to the superintendent. State officials and others are modifying standardized testing and other college admission requirements due to the unusual situation caused by the pandemic.

Details on commencement ceremonies for high schools were still being hashed out as of April 21.

“Various ideas are being discussed about ways to honor graduates while still complying with all state mandates, such as streaming baccalaureate Masses, having video slideshows of students in their cap/gown, banners put up in the community, delivery of diplomas to students’ home by a small caravan of teachers, community parades, etc.,” explained Hermsen.

Gov. Kim Reynolds of Iowa waived the Aug. 23 start date for the next academic year, so many schools across the state are considering an earlier start date for the 2020-2021 academic year. Officials are also considering offering some form of summer school.

A majority of schools in the archdiocese have applied for financial assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) available through the federal legislation recently passed to aid businesses and other organizations affected by the pandemic.

“… most (applications) were processed before the federal funds were depleted. We know of a couple of places that have applications submitted ready to go if the federal government releases additional funds,” stated Hermsen.