UPDATED 21 APRIL 2021, Noon

OC Catholic Schools__Our Journey Back REVISED 04 21 2021


Dr. Erin C. O. Barisano, Superintendent of Catholic Schools gave a recent interview as part of the Conference on Business & Ethics Series.  You may watch the video or listen to the podcast with the links below:

To listen to the podcast of the interview, please click on the following:


Superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Erin Barisano’s Message to Parents from Diocese of Orange on Vimeo.

15 December 2020

Dear OC Catholic School Community,

As we prepare ourselves for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, we cannot help but recognize the challenges we continue to face due to COVID-19. Throughout this pandemic, our schools have become adept to overcoming obstacles and remaining strong in the face of adversity. As such, I would like to offer you a snapshot of the impact of the pandemic on our schools.

  • This year, there are 16,264 students and staff on our 35 campuses across the diocese. Currently, 50 students and 17 staff members have known active cases of COVID-19. The entire OC Catholic School community prays for the safe and speedy recovery of our infected students and staff members. These students and staff members as well as others who have recovered from the virus since our campuses reopened in September, represent 0.4% of our on-campus school population. In comparison, current Orange County infection rates are about 3% of the county’s 3.1 million people. We are proud that our rate is well below the county rate.
  • OC Catholic Schools continue to take proactive steps to maintain safe and healthy working and learning environments for our students and staff. These proactive steps, which are in line with the California Department of Public Health and Orange County Public Health Agency best practice recommendations, include: face coverings required by all staff and students in third grade and above at all times while on campus; physical distancing in classrooms and throughout the campus; reinforcement of hand hygiene practices; and screening of campus visitors during school hours. Many campuses have installed Plexiglas barriers and upgraded air filters for indoor settings. Outdoor space is also being utilized for teaching and learning.
  • Our schools continue to conduct contact tracing, allowing potentially exposed parties to be immediately notified. Students remain home for 14 days from exposure.
  • In the spirit of transparency, OC Catholic Schools has maintained a dashboard on our website which is updated daily and reports current active COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

Our goal continues to be to remain open for in-person instruction. Research supports the benefits of in-person instruction for the social and emotional wellbeing of students, especially in times of crisis. Additionally, in-person instruction is the best way we can ensure equity and access to all of our students on a daily basis.

As we near the end of 2020, I am filled with gratitude for the gift of our teachers and staff who have been stretched in mind, body, and spirit. Because of their great sacrifices and love for your children, we have been able to maintain in-person instruction. Please be extra kind to your school’s educators as we near Christmas break.  Your gratitude goes a long way in making it all feel worthwhile.

Finally, I would like to remind all of our parents of the important role you play in ensuring the health and safety of our students. Being part of a Catholic school community is a privilege and, this year in particular, that privilege is coupled with a responsibility that extends beyond the walls of our campuses.  With the surge in COVID-19 cases on the rise, please follow the Regional Stay at Home Order so that we may return to in-person instruction after the holiday season. We all have a responsibility to follow all COVID-19 health recommendations, and we cannot maintain healthy campuses without your help and adherence to public health guidelines and the Regional Stay at Home Order. Remember that your responsible decisions will allow our school communities to stay safe and remain open for in-person instruction after the holidays.

During these seemingly dark days, may we be reminded of the light that will shine on Christmas day. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11) May the birth of the newborn King fill your hearts with joy this Christmas season and may you remain safe and healthy as we return to school in the New Year!

Thank you for your partnership on our journey.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D., Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange

UPDATED 20 NOVEMBER 2020, 2:38pm

The Department of Catholics Schools and the Diocese of Orange Human Resources office have provided the following recommendations to keep our cummunity safe during the coming holidays.  Please click on the links below:

COVID – Holiday GATHERING Recommendations

COVID – Holiday TRAVEL Recommendations

COVID_Holiday Recommendations


16 November 2020

Dear OC Catholic School Families,

Grace and peace be with you as we prepare for Thanksgiving.

Today, Governor Newsom presented new data regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Orange County was among a number of counties across the state that were placed back into the Purple Tier due to an increase in the local widespread transmission of COVID-19.

State guidelines state that if a county falls back into the Purple Tier from a less restrictive tier, schools that have already resumed in-person instruction can remain open with the necessary precautions in place. It is important to keep in mind that this guidance is subject to change based on future state directives from Governor Newsom. As such, under current state guidance, our Diocese of Orange Catholic Schools will remain open for in-person instruction.  With our stringent health and safety protocols in place, we remain committed to reducing the transmission and other adverse effects related to COVID-19.

As previously stated, our primary goal is to keep all faculty, staff, and students healthy and whole in body, mind, and spirit. Each one of us must remain vigilant in wearing facial coverings in and out of school and following all requirements of return-to-school plans, including staying home if you are sick, washing your hands regularly and maintaining proper social distancing. This shared responsibility is critical to our ability to keep our schools open for in-person learning.

Thank you for your continued support. We remain committed to working with the state and local health departments to ensure we can safely continue with in-person instruction. If anything changes, I will inform you immediately.

May God continue to shower us with His blessings and grace throughout the coming days.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange

UPDATED 28 OCTOBER 2020, 12:35PM

28 October 2020

Dear OC Catholic School Families,

May God’s blessings be with you during this month of October. As we approach the middle of our first semester, I wanted to offer you an update on our schools’ re-opening plans. The first weeks back inside the classroom have exceeded all expectations. It is truly a joy to be together again in community and faith! Our principals, teachers, and staff continue to serve our students with courage and love to ensure they receive the highest level of academic instruction and faith-formation.

I am pleased to share our OC Catholic Schools COVID-19 Dashboard. OC Catholic Schools remains committed to providing accuracy and transparency as it relates to the number of confirmed cases among staff and students on our campuses. To date, the number of positive COVID-19 cases has been low and there has been no transmission at any of our schools. We welcome this level of transparency as another effort to protect and promote the common good of our community. Our primary goal is to keep all faculty, staff, and students healthy and whole in body, mind, and spirit. Thank you for continuing to ensure that your children wear facial coverings in school and follow all requirements of return-to-school plans, keeping students home if they are sick, washing hands regularly and maintaining proper social distancing.

The wildfires of the past few days have presented additional health and safety concerns for our families. Schools that have been affected by evacuation notices and unhealthy air quality have decided to return to distance learning for a few days. I am extremely grateful for our school leaders who continue to lead with faith and courage in the face of adversity. May God bless our firefighters and first responders as they work to keep us safe.

As we navigate this extraordinary year, we give thanks for the moments of grace in our midst. St. Augustine reminds us that grace is given not because we have done good works, but in order that we may be able to do them. It is through God’s grace that we will be able to continue the good work of Catholic education in the Diocese of Orange. Thank you for your prayers and companionship on our journey.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange


17 September 2020

Dear OC Catholic School Families,

I pray this message finds you safe and healthy. I am happy to inform you that we are on track to re-open all grades at OC Catholic Schools on Tuesday, September 22. It has been such a joy to see our younger students (TK-6) in school for the past two weeks and we look forward to welcoming back students in grades 7-8 to our elementary campuses and re-open our high school campuses for in-person instruction. It seems fitting that we celebrate the first day of fall with our OC Catholic school students back on campus for in-person instruction. We are truly blessed and have much to celebrate!

Even as we continue to test our endurance with this pandemic, we recognize that there are lessons to be learned in this moment—perhaps beginning with gratitude.

Parents, we are grateful for your patience and courageous caring of your children. Thank you for your continued belief in the value of a Catholic education for your children, one that is so vital in times like these.

Teachers and staff, we are grateful for your commitment to the children we serve. You are the first point of contact in assisting our students and families with their needs. Because of you, our students are smart, confident, compassionate, faith-filled, and they understand what community means. Thank you for embodying and witnessing the “servant leader” for our children.

Students, we are grateful for YOU. You are the reason why we are here. We believe in you, and we are very proud of you—all of you. Know that your church loves you, and we are here to support you in your learning and faith formation this school year.

Principals, we are grateful for your courageous and faith-filled leadership in planning and preparedness. Your dedication to your school communities during these past months has been nothing short of inspiring. Thank you for leading with grace, conviction and collaboration.

Finally, we cannot be more grateful to our bishops and pastors for your prayers and ongoing support of our Catholic schools. You set the vision for our Catholic ministries, including schools, to keep focused on Christ during good and bad weather. Thank you for shepherding us.

Through expressions of gratitude, we have experienced moments of grace throughout this pandemic. While the road ahead may be somewhat unclear, what is crystal clear is that God is with us. This truth has been—and will always be—what ultimately unites us and sustains us.

During this extraordinary school year, may we all strive to recognize the blessings that surround us and see along the light of God’s grace.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange


Superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Erin Barisano’s Back to School Message from Diocese of Orange on Vimeo.


1 September 2020

Dear OC Catholic School Community,

Blessings to you on this first day of September! As we begin this extraordinary school year, I am filled with great excitement and immense joy to announce that our students in grades TK-6 will begin in-person instruction on September 8! Our journey back has not been without challenges, but I feel confident in knowing that our schools have worked hard all summer to ensure that our students, teachers, and staff can return to a safe and healthy campus that is conducive to teaching, learning, and faith formation.

It is important for you to know that, currently, seven of our elementary schools have received waivers. The remaining waiver applications are being reviewed and processed, and we anticipate approval before the end of the week. The waivers allow students in grades TK-6 to return to campus for in-person instruction; this is true even if the state Safer at Home order is reinstated. I am extremely grateful to our principals, teachers, and their COVID-19 Health and Safety Committees who worked tirelessly on creating safe school re-opening plans and waiver applications.

Additionally, on August 28, Governor Newsom announced the Blueprint for a Safer Economy. After some initial confusion as to how this might affect school re-opening, we received confirmation from OC County Health Officer, Dr. Clayton Chau, that as long as Orange County continues trending in a positive way, TK-12 schools can re-open for in-person instruction on September 22, 2020. This is great news for our schools who have worked hard on their re-opening plans. Each school’s re-opening plan is posted on the school’s website and is aligned with the CDPH Health and Safety Checklist which includes: 1) Campus Access; 2) Hygiene; 3) Protective Equipment; 4) Physical Distancing; 5) Cleaning and Disinfecting; 6) Employee Issues; 7) Communication with Students, Parents, Employees, Public Health and Community; and 8) Identification, Tracing of Contacts, and Testing. Please note that while each school’s re-opening plan is unique to its campus, all of our schools will follow the diocesan guidelines for re-opening Catholic Schools.

As we prepare for the year ahead, I am filled with hope for the future of our schools and the future of our Church. We remain committed to you, our OC Catholic families, and will continue to work hard to bring the highest level of academic excellence and faith formation experience to your children. While we still have numerous challenges that surround us, I cannot help but reflect on the words of Thomas Merton, “He who hopes in God trusts God, Whom he never sees, to bring him to the possession of things that are beyond imagination.” With hope and trust in Our Lord, may we dare to imagine great things for your children this year and beyond! Thank you for your partnership on our journey.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange

UPDATED 29 JULY 2020, 12:00PM

29 July 2020

Dear OC Catholic School Families,

In light of the revised school re-opening guidelines issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday, July 17, we have decided to move the first day of school to Tuesday, September 8 for all of our Catholic elementary schools. This decision was made in consultation with our bishops, diocesan leadership team, and our school principals, and was based on several factors listed below:

  • Orange County is currently on the Governor’s Covid-19 Watch List which means his office is monitoring the county for increasing cases and hospitalizations. We believe delaying our start date gives us an additional two weeks for OC to be removed from the watch list.
  • We will use this additional time for focused staff development and training.
  • The new start date gives us additional time for procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and items that have been backordered.

Most importantly, pushing back the start date allows us time to meet the newly revised state re-opening guidelines and begin the school year fully prepared for in-person traditional model teaching. This goal is in concert with our parent survey results which indicated that most parents (83%) prefer the traditional model in the Fall. This goal is also in alignment with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): “the AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school. The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the Spring of 2020.”

While we feel the safe return of our students to campus is essential for the academic, spiritual, emotional, and social well-being and development of our children, we must be mindful of the challenges that come within this pandemic. Please note that if our county is not ready by September 8, all of our schools will be prepared to open with instruction in a distance learning format.

Since March, we have looked forward to the day we welcome you and your students back to campus. Our children have been loved, protected, and formed by you during these unprecedented times, and it is our honor and privilege to serve as your partners in their education and formation. Thank you for being part of our Catholic school community.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange

Please click on the following to download the Superintendents’ letter:  DoO Parent Letter 07 29 2020

UPDATED 23 JULY 2020, 9:15am


July 23, 2020

Dear OC Catholic School Parents,

I pray this message finds you healthy and well as we navigate these extraordinary times.

On behalf of the Diocese of Orange Department of Catholic Schools, I am pleased to share this statement from our California Catholic Bishops. Through the California Catholic Conference, which is the official public policy voice of the Catholic Church in California, our bishops call on Governor Newsom to rapidly develop safe procedures to reopen schools.

While we cannot predict what the COVID-19 pandemic will look like this fall, OC Catholic Schools have implemented a number of enhanced health and safety measures based on guidance from local health and government authorities, including gathering parent feedback on how to best proceed.

We are in support of this effort by our Catholic Bishops in urging the Governor to expedite regulations that will enable local health authorities to grant waivers to reopen schools for in-person instruction. There are nearly 11 million Catholics in California and the Catholic Church is the largest private provider of health care, social services and education in the state.

I am grateful to the many parents who have reached out to me these past few days expressing their desire to re-open Catholic school campuses. We are currently exploring the waiver process in Orange County as stated in the revised state guidelines. While we explore this option, I ask you and your families to join us in urging Governor Newsom to let us reopen Catholic schools for in-person learning by filling out this short, 2-minute state-run survey: click here. Alternatively, write a personal letter to the Governor expressing your support on the safe reopening of California schools. Letters can be addressed to:

Governor Gavin Newsom
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Thank you for your time and attention to this effort, and thank you for your support of Catholic education.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange

Please click on the following to download the Superintendents’ letter:  DoO Parent letter 7.23.20

UPDATED 20 JULY 2020, 1:30PM

July 18, 2020

Dear OC Catholic School community,

May God’s grace be with you on this day.

Yesterday, Governor Newsom announced new guidelines for re-opening schools in the state of California. While we feel strongly that our  current re-opening guidelines for our Catholic schools are designed to protect our students, teachers, and staff, we are in the process of reviewing the newly issued state guidelines. Our schools have worked hard to create structures that will allow for physical distancing and cleanliness, and will call for the wearing of face coverings as needed to ensure the health and safety of our school communities.

Orange County is currently on the watch list that the governor referred to in his guidelines. We are in the process of monitoring the watch list criteria as we navigate our path forward.

In addition, for parents who do not want their students attending in person full-time or participating in a hybrid program (part-time in person and part-time online) at their home school, the Diocese of Orange will be offering a complete digital academy as an alternative option for students to continue online learning.  Enrollment is now open at St. Polycarp  School, an Online  Catholic Academy, that will operate as a home-based K-8 learning program  five days a week and be offered to families both locally and nationwide who desire a quality Catholic school education for their  children from home. Additional information can be found  at http://stpolycarpschool.org.  

Let us all pray for a resolution to and decrease  of the COVID-19 virus. May everyone  be healthy, safe, and well.

Thank you for your patience as we continue to navigate these extraordinary times. We will update our OC Catholic School re-opening guidelines based on the latest information and post our updates next week on our website:  www.OCCatholicSchools.org.

May God’s blessings be with you always.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange

Please click on the following to download the Superintendents’ letter:  Parent letter 7.17.20.EB

UPDATED 5 JUNE 2020, 3:15pm

Superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Erin Barisano: Our Journey Back from Diocese of Orange on Vimeo.


UPDATED 2 JUNE 2020, 4:30pm

2 June 2020


Dear OC Catholic School Families,

I pray that this message finds you and your families safe and in good health.

As stated in my previous letter, we are planning to return to school at our traditional time in August. While we do not know what public health guidelines will be then, our plan is to return to in-person instruction at all of our school campuses. Our priority is to ensure that our students, teachers, and staff can confidently return to a safe and healthy campus that is conducive to teaching, learning, and faith formation. To that end, we are developing re-opening plans that reflect the results of the Diocesan Parent Survey and that also adhere to the health standards and physical distancing protocols we anticipate being recommended by the California Department of Education and the Orange County Health Agency. As soon as we receive guidance from state and county health experts, we will be in a position to finalize our plans. Based on what I have seen so far, our public authorities are taking a practical approach to our response to COVID-19 as they formulate their guidelines.

We understand that families want to know as soon as possible what next year will look like. Your school is working hard to prepare flexible plans that include the following options:

  • Full-time return to school with social distancing measures in place
  • Hybrid model with a smaller number of students attending alternate days/times
  • Continued distance learning model for families who desire this alternative
  • Schools will share more detailed information about their plans in the next few weeks.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank all parents who completed our Diocesan Parent Survey. We received a tremendous response from you! Please know that your feedback will assist us in identifying priorities for our Catholic school families and this will shape our plans moving forward. The Department of Catholic Schools team and the Principal Task Force will compile and analyze the data from our parent survey. A final report of our survey findings will be sent to you soon, along with information on what to expect as we re-open our Catholic schools.

As this most extraordinary school year comes to a close, we’ve witnessed equally extraordinary commitment on the part of our Catholic schools and Catholic school families to ensure the continuation of faith and learning for our children despite a societal shutdown. To our students, parents, teachers, principals, and pastors, thank you for being “Church” when Church has mattered most.

We promise to keep you informed as these plans evolve.

May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us as we journey together towards Christ!

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange

Download letter here:  DoO Parents_06 02 2020

UPDATED 12 MAY 2020, 4:30 PM

12 May 2020

Dear Catholic School Families,

Thank you for your patience and partnership as we navigate these extraordinary times.

Last week, Governor Newsom announced that California would begin to transition to the second stage of our roadmap for recovery by allowing lower-risk businesses to reopen. Schools and child care facilities are included in stage two. Looking ahead, we are making plans to re-open our Catholic school campuses to resume school in August. Though we cannot determine what the public health conditions will look like for schools in August, our goal is to return to in-class instruction. A task force of diocesan and school leaders is in the process of developing planning assumptions and recommendations for reopening campuses. Implementation of these guidelines will include a variety of health and safety precautions.  It is highly likely that social-distancing requirements will necessitate the need to limit the number of students on campus at one time.  If this is the case, we will create a hybrid model of education to blend classroom instruction and distance learning as an alternative to campus closures.  We feel confident that we can work within these guidelines, but we must work with our principals, pastors, and school board members to determine a realistic plan for each school site.  The summer will allow us time to further our plans and put the necessary measures in place.

As we work through this process, there are numerous variables to analyze at each site and we are being very thoughtful as we address new concerns as they present themselves. While our goal is to have all of our teachers and students return to our campuses in August, we continue to be mindful of those members of our school communities who are considered high-risk and will develop alternate plans for them. We also acknowledge that we should anticipate the possibility of a resumption of distance learning if the Stay-at-Home order is reinstated. We will be prepared for both scenarios.

The past eight weeks have taught us that we are at our best when we work together toward a common goal.  For our Catholic schools, our common goal is to educate our children in a community of faith. I continue to be inspired by the strength and resilience of our school and parish communities as evidenced throughout this crisis.  I am in awe of our teachers and principals who lead with love, even on the hardest of days.  I am grateful for our partnership with our parents who will always be the primary educators of their children. Thank you for being an important part of our Catholic school community.  We are grateful to be sharing this journey with you.

In a recent reflection by Pope Francis, he reminds us: “We are not alone, the Lord goes before us on our journey, and removes the stones that paralyze us.” This is the hope that no one can take from us, the pope says. May we continue to be filled with the hope of the Risen Lord as we carefully plan and courageously dream for the future of our Catholic schools.

I will continue to communicate with you as we move through our decision-making process and to keep you informed as our plans are finalized.

In mission,


Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange

Download letter here:  DoO Parents_05 12 2020

UPDATED 8 MAY 2020, 8:37AM

Dr. Barisano’s Message to Teachers – May 8, 2020 from Diocese of Orange on Vimeo.

UPDATED – APRIL 30, 2020, 9:00AM

April 30, 2020


Dear Catholic School Parents,

I pray that this note finds you healthy and well as we continue our stay-at-home order.  While these days seem to melt into one another, please know that our schools continue to work harder than ever as we continue distance learning.  Our Department of Catholic Schools team worked diligently over Easter break to ensure that our teachers and principals have access to the right tools so your children’s learning experiences are meaningful, relevant, and grounded in our Catholic faith.  Whether we are gathered together in a virtual classroom or participating in a streaming mass, the past six weeks have proven that our Catholic schools continue to be committed to academic excellence, faith formation, and service.

Two days ago Governor Newsom announced that the 2020-2021 school year may start as early as July or August to make up for learning lost this spring.  As I have previously communicated, Catholic schools were able to pivot quickly and adapt to distance learning almost overnight. The level of thoughtful preparation and professional support has made it possible to keep our students on track for promotion to the next grade level without experiencing a loss in learning. Thus, our schools will adhere to a traditional school calendar and begin the school year as scheduled in late August or September. Additionally, as members of the California Association of Private School Organizations, we have been reassured that no formal consideration of protocols for the reopening of campuses has been launched at the state level, and that the views and concerns of the private school community will definitely be sought.

As we look to returning to campuses in August, there are still many uncertainties surrounding us.  Please know that we are discussing contingency plans with our principals and collaborating with other dioceses throughout California.  We are in constant contact with the Orange County Department of Education and Orange County Health Care Agency, but even then, it is difficult to plan for an unknown future.  The health and safety of our students and teachers continue to guide our decision-making, and we are exercising both creativity and caution as we vision our return to our school campuses.  Social distancing, disinfecting protocols, hand washing, and technology are at the heart of our conversations as we draft plans to bring our students back to campus.  Rest assured that you will hear from my office as well as from your school principal as plans unfold.

Pope Francis tells us, “Hope opens new horizons, making us capable of dreaming what is not even imaginable.” As people of faith, may we be filled with the hope of the Risen Lord as we carefully plan and courageously dream for the future of our Catholic schools.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange

Download letter:  DoO Parents_04 30 2020

UPDATED – APRIL 14, 2020, 3:00PM

Weekly Message from Dr. Erin Barisano, Superintendent of Orange Catholic Schools – April 14, 2020 from Diocese of Orange on Vimeo.

UPDATED – April 9, 2020, 9:20AM

A message to Catholic school educators from Auxiliary Bishop Nguyen from Diocese of Orange on Vimeo.

UPDATED – April 7, 2020, 9:00AM

April 7, 2020


Dear Catholic School Parents,

Blessings to you during this Holy Week.

As we recall Christ’s passion and prepare for the Easter Triduum, we find ourselves in a unique time in history. Instead of looking ahead to the joy of the resurrection, we are faced with burdens of uncertainty and the pain of loss. It is times like these that we rely on our faith more than ever.

Easter has always brought me immense joy, not only because of the Resurrection of our Lord, but because I love to host Easter dinner for my family and friends. I enjoy preparing food to share and games to play.  Even though my children are 12 and 15 years old, we still enjoy our annual Easter egg hunt with cousins and friends. This year, our Easter celebration will look very different.  I will miss my family and friends and the joy we share being together. I know that all of you are grappling with a similar sense of loss.

I know the past few weeks have looked different than any of us ever planned.  Instead of field trips, open houses and spring sports, we have been navigating distance learning with our children. I am so grateful to our principals and teachers who continue to make our children’s learning and faith formation a priority.  I am grateful to the thousands of parents who companion us on this journey because of their commitment to Catholic education. I am grateful to our beautiful students who have risen to the challenge and continue to be engaged and on task. Throughout this crisis, our Catholic schools have been a bright light shining as a testament of faith, excellence, and community.

While we would love to return to our beautiful school campuses in May, we expect campuses to remain closed through the remainder of the school year. The health and safety of our students and teachers are of paramount importance.  If, however, our public health officers deem it safe to return sooner we will adjust as needed. As we implement distance learning for the remainder of the school year, know that we are committed to ensuring that your children continue to achieve academically and grow in their faith.

While we do not know what the future holds, may we find comfort in knowing that we do not walk alone.  Like the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, may we open our hearts to Christ in our midst and celebrate the risen Lord!

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange

Download letter:  DoO Parents_04 07 2020

UPDATED – April 1, 2020, 4:45M

April 1, 2020

Dear Catholic School Parents,

May the grace and peace of our Lord be with you during this extraordinary time.

This has been a trying time for all of us as we confront COVID-19.  The rapidly evolving news stories surrounding this pandemic have undoubtedly caused you great concern.  As we continue to practice social distancing and implement distance learning, we remember that although we are separated across our diocese, we are bound by our faith.

In accordance with the President’s updated guidelines, school campuses will remain closed through the end of April.  Yesterday, the California superintendent for public education recommended that public schools should prepare for distance learning for the remainder of the year.  While we are still hopeful that we might return to campus on May 4th, much will depend on orders from our government and public health officials.  Our timeline going forward will be informed by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, the Orange County Department of Education, and the Orange County Health Care Agency.

We continue to feel confident that our students are receiving a strong academic program delivered by highly qualified teachers. Our teachers are committed to ensuring that our children are meeting grade level academic standards and will be well prepared for the next grade level.  Although we do not gather on our school campuses daily, we continue to build community and communion through daily prayer and faith-filled communications.

Please know that the safety and well-being of your children remains our top priority.  We will continue to share updates with you as this situation evolves.

Pope Saint John Paul II reminds us to “Be not afraid.”

“Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you; all is very, very well. Do this in complete faith and confidence.”

May we take comfort in the love of Our God and allow Him to guide us and protect us during these uncertain times.

As we enter into Holy Week, please know you and your children are in my daily prayers. May Christ continue to bless you and your family and guide us as we move into the unknown.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange

The letter dated April 1, 2020 is from Dr. Erin Barisano, Superintendent of Catholic Schools. As an addendum to this letter, Dr. Barisano has added this message:

Dear Parents,

After sending my letter dated April 1, 2020, Governor Newsom announced that closing California schools for the remainder of the academic year “is the right thing to do.” While this is not a mandate to close schools, it is likely that public schools across the state will remain closed.  As people of faith, we remain hopeful that our students will be able to return to campus before the end of the school year.  We will continue to make final decisions and announcements regarding campus closures in a timely manner as guided by the Center for Disease Control & Prevention, the Orange County Department of Education, and the Orange County Health Care Agency.

Download letter:  DoO Parents_04 01 2020

UPDATED – April 1, 2020, 1:20PM

Superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Erin Barisano’s Week 3 message to parents and teachers. April 1, 2020 from Diocese of Orange on Vimeo.


UPDATED – March 25, 2020, 10:45AM

OC Catholic Schools Superintendent Dr. Erin Barisano’s message during the second week of online schooling. from Diocese of Orange on Vimeo.

UPDATED – March 24, 2020, 9:20AM

Dear Catholic School Parents,

As we begin Week Two of our distance learning program, I want to share a few thoughts with you. First, I am so grateful for our dedicated principals and teachers who have worked tirelessly to prepare for distance learning.  I admire their faith-filled commitment, dedication, and initiative that they have shown in preparing for this endeavor. To ensure that our teachers have the support they need, we are partnering with Loyola Marymount University for focused professional development in the area of distance learning.  This professional development will be ongoing so that our teachers have access to the tools they need.

In my communication dated March 13, I stated students would return to campus on April 20, 2020.  While we have not made any decisions to extend this date, we recognize that the situation is fluid and we are committed to ensuring that our students, teachers, and family are safe. We will continue to follow the recommendations of the CDC and OC Health Agency as we make decisions about returning to campus.

Finally, although things may look different for all of us for a while, we are confident that together we can continue our mission of faith formation and academic excellence through distance learning. As such, we need your commitment to continue paying tuition.  The quality of education remains the same and the level of individualized learning has increased for our students.  With your partnership, we will continue to educate our students and lead them closer to Christ so that they may transform the world.

Thank you for being an important part of our Catholic school community.  We are grateful to be sharing this journey with you.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Orange

Download letter:  DoO Parents_03 24 2020

UPDATED – March 22, 2020, 3:45pm

A Message to Parents from Dr. Erin Barisano, Superintendent of Schools from Diocese of Orange on Vimeo.

UPDATED – March 13, 2020, 1:58PM

From Dr. Erin C. O. Barisano, Superintendent of Catholic Schools

March 13, 2020

Dear Diocese of Orange families,

As a follow up to my previous letter, I want to reiterate that the public’s health and safety are paramount to the Diocese of Orange and all of our community and educational partners. While there have been no confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses within any of our schools, we want to ensure that we are acting with prudence and diligence for the best interest of our students, teachers, and families.

After careful consideration and in light of the fluid nature of this pandemic, the Diocese of Orange elementary schools will close their school buildings and cancel classes and student-related activities from March 16 April 17, 2020. We plan to re-open schools on April 20, 2020 following the Easter Break. This closure includes any planned school events such as fundraisers, community events as well as field trips. This closure means that school buildings will not be open to children, parents, or community members during this time. Course content will be delivered utilizing the Diocesan distance learning protocol which has been distributed to all schools.

I understand this is an evolving health concern, and guidance is changing daily. This complex decision involved close collaboration and coordination with the Orange County Health Agency and Bishop Kevin Vann. I also ask that you please inform your school principal if your child receives a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19.

I understand this may cause a hardship for many families. We made this decision out of maximum consideration for the health and safety of our children and school community members.

As we proceed, we are aware that there continues to be many concerns around COVID-19 and want to ensure families that we are working closely with OC Health Agency for updates and guidance. For the latest information on COVID-19, families are encouraged to visit the OC Health Agency web page dedicated to COVID-19 (http://www.ochealthinfo.com/) and the DoO Parents_03 24 2020CDC homepage.

As a community of faith, let us hold one another in prayer during this challenging time.  Please pray especially for the sick, health care providers, public health officials, and all community leaders during the weeks to come.

For updates regarding this closure, please visit our OC Catholic Schools website at https://occatholicschools.org//.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Diocese of Orange

Download letter:  COVID OC school closure EB_CORRECTED

UPDATED – March 13, 2020, 1:52PM

From Santa Margarita Catholic High School

March 13, 2020

Dear SMCHS Community,

In the best interest of the health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and local communities, and in collaboration with Bishop Kevin Vann and Diocese of Orange Superintendent Dr. Erin Barisano, SMCHS will shift our instructional efforts to our online one-to-one tablet PC program. The transition to online classes will begin Wednesday, March 18, with a plan to resume in-person classes on Monday, April 20, at the earliest.

Monday, March 16, and Tuesday, March 17, will be student holidays with virtual instruction beginning on Wednesday, March 18, for all students. Spring break will still take place Holy Thursday, April 9, through Sunday, April 19.

All class content will be delivered remotely for students via the school’s one-to-one tablet PC program. Students will utilize the same programs they have been using through much of their instructional experience here at SMCHS, such as Microsoft Teams, OneNote and our Learning Portal.  Beginning March 18, students will access these same programs at home on their tablets to attend virtual classes. Teachers will be reaching out to students with course-specific plans for instruction in the coming days. Many thanks to our extraordinary teachers for being on the frontlines, leading and reassuring our students while doing something totally unprecedented with love, grace and professionalism.

Students should anticipate an average workload of 4-5 hours per week, per class. Workloads will include, but are not limited to:

  • Attending virtual class meetings
  • Watching/listening/reading/participating/practicing
  • Connecting with peers in subject specific discussion boards and documents
  • Homework
  • Projects
  • Reports

AP and IB courses may assign additional work, projects and/or practice tests as needed.

All students should check into their teacher’s portal or Microsoft Teams at the start of each period for attendance. Students are not required to be online Saturday and Sunday; however, students will be expected to check Microsoft Teams, the Learning Portal and their SMCHS email multiple times daily.

In preparation for this transition all students are required to bring all their school materials, tablets, chargers and any pertinent instructional material home at the conclusion of school on Friday, March 13. In addition, the following tips are provided for the student home educational experience:

  • At home, families are asked, if possible, to set up a consistent “classroom space” where students can log in and attend class online. We strongly encourage families to find a space where distractions may be minimized and nothing deemed inappropriate according to our school’s parent-student handbook.
  • To maximize the virtual classroom experience, all are encouraged to utilize headphones while attending online classes.

We recognize that this temporary school closure will create new considerations for our families to navigate and you may have many questions. Communication with academic instructions for students and details regarding technology support services will be sent out on Monday. In addition, SMCHS will update you regularly via email and on the SMCHS COVID-19 reference page.

As we navigate through this unprecedented time together, there will be challenges. However, we are prayerful that compassion, support and perseverance will guide us through this situation together.

Thank you for your continued partnership in keeping our SMCHS family and the surrounding community safe.



Andrew Sulick ’91


UPDATED – March 13, 2020

From Mater Dei High School

Dear Parents and Students,

Good morning and I hope you and your family are well.

As I said in my letter yesterday, we at MDHS are making decisions regarding school remaining open or voluntarily closing as other schools have done. While we continue to follow the recommendations of the Center for Disease Control, the CA and OC Health Departments’ guidelines, it is in collaboration with Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange and Dr. Erin Barisano, Superintendent of Catholic Schools that the President, Fr. Steve Sallot and the entire MD Administrative Team have made the following decision: Mater Dei High School will close to all students effective as of end of school today March 13 through Friday, April 17.

Effective March 16 and 17 all teachers will be on campus to refine and put final details to an Online Education Program for all students.

Effective March 18 , Online Learning will begin for all students at their homes or at a place of parents choosing. We ask both parents and students to log in to CANVAS by 9:15am Wednesday morning to be introduced to the Online Learning Program and expectations.

Effective March 13, all athletic games and practices are postponed until further notice. Please check the Master Calendar section of the MD website for updates. All school events through the end of March are cancelled or postponed. (See Master Calendar for updates)

Please note: No cases of Coronavirus have been diagnosed for any staff member or student at Mater Dei High School

As of today, school offices will continue to be open; students will continue to take Easter Break as per the MD Master Calendar, April 9-17. We will continue to update parents through our Monarch News and the MD website as this “New Normal” develops or changes.

May Our Blessed Mother, Mary Mater Dei, continue to watch over our MD community throughout this period of “New Normal.”


Frances Clare



UPDATED – March 12, 2020

Dear Catholic School Parents:

May God’s blessings be with you during this Lenten season. Because of the spread of COVID-19 in our state and following the recommendations of the California Department of Public Health, we may need to take the necessary step of temporarily closing a school or schools and implement distance learning. I am writing to tell you about the circumstances under which we would close a school, and the steps we will take to ensure continuity of learning for students while they are home using technology.

Circumstances Under Which We Would Close a School
Our policy for the temporary closure of a school follows the recommendations of the California Department of Public Health from their document “School Guidance on Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19” dated March 7, 2020. In the section “Scenario III: Measures to be taken if one student, teacher or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 and exposed others at the school,” the document reads:

“If one student, teacher or staff member tests positive for COVID-19 and exposed others at the school, CDPH recommends that school administrators implement the following steps:

  • In consultation with the local public health department, the appropriate school official may consider if school closure is warranted and length of time based on the risk level within the specific community as determined by the local public health officer.
  • In consultation with the local public health department, school officials may determine readmission criteria after the school closures.”

In short, if a student, teacher, or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, I will contact the health department and move to initiate a two-week closure of the campus, effective immediately.

In a subsequent section entitled “Scenario IV,” the same document provides for the closure of more than one school in a region. I would make such a decision in consultation with the appropriate public authorities and Bishop Kevin Vann.

Preparation for Distance Learning

To keep our students engaged, learning, and in community with each other during a trying time, we are preparing all of our schools to support distance learning for all students. Our teachers and principals are creating and preparing plans for remote instruction. We have provided our principals with a vast amount of resources related to distance learning. On Friday, March 13th my team and I will meet with principals to discuss the resources and plan for a potential school closure. Your individual school principal and I will communicate with you about next steps should we have to close your school.

In terms of distance learning, the intent is not to replace the experience a student would have in his or her classroom, but to support them with continued learning while away from campus. The lesson plans and activities the teacher has organized will help them to progress to the end of the year goals. If a school does need to suspend on-campus instruction, teachers and principals will be available during the time of school closure to help answer any questions you may have regarding the assignments.

Please know that we will work together with the appropriate public health officials to return students to school as quickly and as safely as possible in the event of a closure. We know that the uncertainty of potential school closures is stressful for all involved, but we remain focused on the health and wellbeing of our students, faculty and staff, and all of their families.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

In mission,

Erin C.O. Barisano, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Diocese of Orange

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