The Catholic Diocese of Trenton (Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean County) and Bishop David O'Connell have announced new precautionary measures amid the coronavirus pandemic and this one is affecting the schools run by the diocese.

On Friday afternoon, Bishop O’Connell announced that the 35 Catholic schools and nearly 100 religious education programs in the Diocese will shut down beginning on Monday March 16 and continuing to remain closed through March 27 in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus among the students and teachers, and to allow for a cleaning and disinfecting process to be conducted in all facilities.

"The decision to close will keep more than 14,000 students and nearly 1,500 faculty and staff members home from all diocesan and parish-run schools, as well as several independent Catholic schools. Provisions have been made for students to participate in online learning during the closures. Some 42,000 children will be impacted by the suspension of parish religious education classes, along with 3,200 of their mostly volunteer catechists. Parish efforts are underway to provide home-based learning for these children, particularly those in a sacramental preparation year," according to a stament from the Diocese of Trenton and Bishop David O'Connell.

The Diocese also announced March 13 that the Chancery will suspend normal operations in its Lawrenceville site, which will transition most of their 85 staff members to a work-from-home status from March 16 to 20.

A message sent to all staff by diocesan officials stated, “It is important to note that there are no reported cases of COVID-19 among the Chancery staff.”

The Diocese said that the decision to close the Chancery was “in support of the efforts to limit large gatherings, and out of an abundance of caution.”

A return to the office is temporarily slated for March 23, but that may change depending on the circumstances surrounding the virus.

JoAnn Tier, the superintendent of Catholic schools, send a letter to parents on Friday as well advising them that extracurricular activities and community gatherings have also canceled or postponed until further notice.

This includes athletic practices and competitions.

Events scheduled for later this year will be evaluated based on the most current information available.

“Our schools have developed plans for the continuity of instruction in the event of a prolonged closure. Your school's principal and teachers will keep you informed of specific plans for your school," Tier said.

Several independent Catholic schools located in the Diocese also announced similar steps this week, preparing to close their doors for a number of weeks and move to an online instruction platform.

One Diocese-sponsored event, “Kerygma – An encounter with Jesus Christ” retreat, set for March 15 and March 21 has been cancelled.

For updates on announcements, cancellations and available resources, you are encouraged to check your local parish and school websites, and to check in regularly at dioceseoftrenton.org/coronavirus.

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