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Following established safety protocols, Catholic school transitions to virtual learning after teacher tests positive for COVID-19

Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Bethesda, Maryland, has temporarily transitioned from a hybrid model to virtual learning for all students after a teacher tested positive Sept. 25 for COVID-19.

A statement from the Archdiocese of Washington noted, “In working with the Montgomery County Health Department, it was determined that all 6th, 7th and 8th students should quarantine until Oct. 8, 2020.  A few teachers that were in close proximity of the teacher were also instructed to quarantine.”

The statement from the archdiocese added, “Out of an abundance of caution, school leadership decided to return to virtual learning for the entire school.”

The virtual learning and the recommended quarantine will continue until Oct. 8.

According to archdiocesan officials, the teacher woke up last Friday morning not feeling well, and was tested the same day. No students at the school have reported symptoms or positive tests results, and no school families have reported symptoms or positive test results of their children.

The Archdiocese of Washington said the decision to switch the entire school to virtual learning “was based on the many children in the school that are siblings of the middle school students required to quarantine.”

The school, which opened for the school year on Aug. 31, has 191 students.

“The school leadership acted quickly to contact the Montgomery County Health Department and work through the process to determine those students and educators potentially exposed,” said Kelly Branaman, Secretary for Catholic Schools and Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of Washington.

She said “the school leadership made the decision to return all students to distance learning during the next two weeks. This decision was primarily made to accommodate the many siblings of middle school students.”

Branaman also noted that the immediate switch to virtual learning follows procedures that were set in place before the start of the school year. She said no schools in the Archdiocese of Washington could open until there were such contingency plans set in place.

She said such the backup plans were established so that in the event schools needed to modify their model of teaching, archdiocesan educators could “continue the momentum of children’s formation and education and minimize time students would not be engaged in learning.”

The teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School is only the third positive COVID case at an archdiocesan Catholic school in Montgomery County. The two prior cases – a teacher and a student at Holy Redeemer Catholic School in Kensington, Maryland – fully recovered and have returned to school.