Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg issues new directives in response to coronavirus concerns.

Bishop Gregory Parkes

ST. PETERSBURG — Bishop Gregory Parkes recently announced that opening day for parish and diocesan Catholic schools in the Diocese of St. Petersburg will be postponed for two weeks, from Aug. 10 to Aug. 24.

In a letter to parents, he noted the recent rise of COVID-19 cases and stressed the importance of acting prudently. This decision was made in consultation with the Diocesan Office of Catholic Schools and Centers, pastors, educators, physicians, parents, public health and emergency management experts, and the COVID-19 Task Force on Catholic Education. This Task Force was convened in late May to serve as a central hub of information and resources for the 46 Catholic schools and centers in the diocese.

While classes will start a little later than usual, Parkes affirmed Catholic schools’ commitment to return to in-person instruction, stating that it is vitally important for the healthy development and wellbeing of the children. The additional two weeks will give educators extra time to prepare for the safe return of students.

The Diocese of St. Petersburg is comprised of approximately 480,000 Catholics, more than 303,000 whom are registered and includes 74 parishes, five missions, 46 schools and early childhood centers, two universities, and a variety of social service, health care, housing and pastoral ministries located within the five counties of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus. Mass is celebrated in 12 languages. The diocese is led by Parkes, its fifth bishop, who was installed in January 2017.