By Dr. Samuel Torres
The start of the 2021-22 school year for the Diocese of San Bernardino brings positive news to families, communities and parishes. The forecast is strong with the conviction that we can be flexible in the unfolding year. The leadership at the school and diocesan levels remains committed to focusing on health and safety for all. Administrators and faculty have continued to foster an achievable academic, social and emotionally nurturing school experience while providing the necessary resources for safe environments.
The California Department of Public Health and the local health departments of San Bernardino and Riverside have provided guidelines on the return for school and the maintenance necessary to keep a safe environment. The diocesan Emergency Operative Collaborative (EOC) has developed guidelines that will provide consistent strategies from school to school in our Diocese. Principals are responsible for implementing and maintaining the protocols.
Our principals continue to tackle and achieve herculean tasks. Over the past year, we have asked them to plan, create and pivot on a moment’s notice when the landscape or protocols have required change. The Office of Catholic Schools is in continual communication with school leadership to assist in interpretation and implementation of guidelines.
Our schools are open for in-person instruction. We learned last year the necessity of introducing and encouraging good hygiene. Wearing masks indoors, maintaining good sanitization and health checks completed by parents are critical components of supporting a clean and safe learning environment.
The Catholic schools in the Diocese of San Bernardino are welcoming an increase in enrollment, with many new students and families discovering for the first time, or rediscovering, the value of our Catholic schools. Our in person learning process has piqued the interest and curiosity of many folks now selecting to receive academic excellence in a rich faith-filled learning community for their children. We are thankful for this confidence and honored by the presence of all of our new families. They are very important to our growing story as we open this year and move forward together.
Our programs are facilitated by excellent teacher-stewards who demonstrate outstanding servitude in this educational paradigm shift, as we move back into classrooms and build our school communities within new parameters. Catholic school teachers accept the roles of encouragers, leaders and educators of academic excellence, leading by example.
Collaboration, cooperation, respect and support among parents, teachers and the community are the gold that weaves through our tapestry. The experience we provide for students is not served by one entity, but all of us collectively. The love that emerges from this creates a strong and lasting fabric of our moment in time. We can spend the present thinking about the past; the way we used to do everything. We can worry about the future.
More importantly, we can choose to realize that we will not get the time back that is passing now. We may be facing many uncertainties in our environment, diocese, region, country or world at large, but seeing how we put others’ needs over our own is significant and meaningful in these times.
Let’s look around and ask ourselves what we can do to make the situation better. This year we have received many unexpected blessings and this has helped us understand better how we can and must pay it forward. Let’s be weavers together! We are grateful to have the opportunity to model what Christ has taught us in this moment. It is our calling to animate his teaching and desire for us to, “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Dr. Samuel Torres is Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of San Bernardino.