This handbook is designed to familiarize families with the policies and procedures of Nativity of Our Lord PREP.
What is PREP?
PREP (Parish Religious Education Program) is a program, in place at Nativity of Our Lord Parish, to assist parents in a more formal way, meet the religious education needs of their children in grades K – 12 who do not attend a Catholic elementary or high school.
Structure of PREP
The pastor appoints a Director of Religious Education who is responsible for the overall operation of PREP. Trained and screened volunteers act as catechists, assistants and monitors in the program.
PREP follows a curriculum for each level established by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and stated in the Religion Guidelines of the Archdiocese. Text books are selected from a list of Archdiocese approved texts that are found to be in conformance with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Classes generally cover one chapter a week. Both written and study homework is usually assigned for each level. This gives the parents an opportunity to reinforce and expand upon concepts and doctrine being taught in class. Prayers are assigned for memorization at each level.
New registrations are accepted at any time.
- PREP families must be registered as parishioners of Nativity of Our Lord Parish.
- Baptismal certificates must be presented at registration.
- Tuition must accompany registration.
Re-registration begins in April.
- Notices will be sent home with students enrolled in PREP.
- Tuition should accompany the re-registration form.
- Re-registration will take place in the school building on designated PREP nights in April or parents may mail forms and tuition to the Religious Education Office.
- Late fees will be levied if a family re-registers after the stated deadline. If a family has a financial or family concern, please call the D.R.E. prior to this deadline to avoid a late fee.
Children with Disabilities
As defined by Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the term disability means a child “with mental retardation, hearing impairments (including deafness), speech and language impairments, visual impairments (including blindness), serious emotional disturbance, orthopedic impairments, autism, brain injury, other health impairments, or specific learning disabilities; and who, by reason thereof, needs special education and related services.
We recognize the dignity of God’s creation and we attempt to provide religious educational opportunities for those children with disabilities. We ask that parents share with the DRE the nature of a child’s disability so we can make accommodations for that child in his /her learning and testing.
We also ask that when registering or re-registering the parent let us know and provide us with a copy of a child’s IEP from his/her public school. An IEP can help guide us in making accommodations for a child. The IEP will be shared with the child’s catechist to insure we are working to accommodate a child’s needs. The IEP will be handled in a confidential manner by both the DRE and catechist.
- Tuition covers the cost of each student’s textbook as well as audiovisual materials, resource materials, catechist and assistant training and other items purchased for use in the program.
- Tuition is set after consultation with the business manager and approval by the pastor.
- SCRIP credits may be used to pay tuition or fees.
- A replacement fee of $12 is charged for lost textbooks.
- If a family has a financial concern or difficulty, please contact the D.R.E. at the PREP Office (215) 672-5316.
- A returning catechist will have tuition waived for the family. A returning assistant will have half tuition waived for the family.
- New catechists and assistants will have tuition reimbursed at the rates stated above. This reimbursement will be issued in the late fall through the parish business office.
- A fee is charged for all children preparing to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. This fee covers materials used especially for sacrament preparation including parent meeting speakers, retreats, practices, Confirmation robes, speakers, crafts, refreshments and videos for Confirmation and First Holy Communion
- Classes are held on Wednesday evenings from 6:00 – 7:30 P.M.
- Classes are held in Nativity of Our Lord School.
- Children are usually assigned to a level corresponding to their public school grade, BUT if they have started late or have missed a year or more of religious instruction, they may be assigned to a more appropriate religious education level.
- Send children to all classes on time.
- Check the child’s school bag for assignments, notices and calendar updates.
- Read all notices sent home by PREP. We send most by email but some are sent home with the child. Please check for notices each week.
- Help the child learn the assigned prayers for his or her grade level. (The National Directory for Catechesis states that “parents are the most effective catechists of prayer…”
- Supervise completion of homework.
- Make sure the child comes to PREP prepared for class.
- Help the child make up any work missed on account of absence.
- Attend “Back to PREP Night”.
- Attend all required sacrament preparation meetings.
Assessment is a necessary component of instruction. Assessment may be formal or informal. Along with informal assessment, the following formal assessments are part of the Nativity of Our Lord PREP:
- Mid-year tests are given to students in grades2-6 in January. These tests are designed by the catechists.
- Children are verbally tested throughout the year for knowledge of prayers appropriate for each level of instruction.
- End of year tests are written in conformance with the Religion Guidelines of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. They are administered to students in Grades 1 – 6 in April.
- Progress Reports are sent home in January to Levels 2-6 and in May to Levels 1-6.
- If a student has an IEP, we can modify testing to accomodate a child’s learning style or diablility.
Promotion and Retention
Promotion is based on the following criteria,
- Consistent attendance and displaying knowledge of the Catholic faith appropriate for level.
- A student may not be promoted if he or she has missed 4 or more classes and does not display sufficient knowledge of the faith on the end of year test.
- A student may re-take an end of year test during the summer, and if he or she passes this test, the DRE may consider promotion.
Communication between PREP and Parents
Effective communication promotes a mutually supported program.
PREP communicates with parents through:
Notices sent home (please check school bags each week)
Media outlets in emergencies
PREP Link on Parish website at www.nativityofourlord.org
Parents are asked to keep the PREP Office informed of a current e-mail address. We will use e-mail as our primary form of communication with parents. This reduces our use of paper, ink and postage. If you do not have an e-mail account, please notify the PREP Office and we’ll send home notices with your youngest child.
Parents are asked to contact the Religious Education Office or their child’s catechist with any questions or concerns they may have. It is better to call the office or write a note to the catechist. Class time is short and catechists and the administration may not have time to address your concerns on class nights.
- Classes begin at 6:00 P.M. on Wednesday evenings. Please plan on arriving 10 minutes prior to class.
- Children and their parents may enter the school through the entrances marked A, B, or C. Please do not enter the building through any other door.
- Please exercise extreme caution while driving or walking in the parking lot.
- To facilitate traffic flow, please enter the front parking area using the opening across from Burger King and exit using the opening near the church.
- Please park in lined parking spaces.
- Please do not park in the area marked as a fire zone.
- No child may be left in a classroom unattended. If the catechist is late, please wait in the hall with your child until an adult is present to supervise the class.
- Parents are asked not to allow their child/ren to walk or ride a bike to and from PREP.
- For safety reasons, the doors of the school are locked during class time. They will be unlocked at 7:28 P.M. for dismissal.
- Children in grades K – 4 must be picked up in their classrooms by their parent or other designated adult.
- Parents are urged to meet their fifth and sixth graders in the school building. These children are dismissed from the classroom when the bell rings at 7:30 p.m.
- Please be aware of traffic and pedestrians and use caution in the parking lot.
- Students may not wait outside for their rides. If a parent is late picking up a child, we will wait with them in the PREP room until a parent or designated person arrives to take them home. The PREP room is #104 and located near entrance “B”.
Early dismissals are disruptive to learning. If for some urgent reason a child needs to be dismissed early from class, please observe the following rules:
- A written note must be turned in to the catechist by the child at the beginning of class.
- We ask that you do not pick up a child before 7:00 P.M. A child will not be considered to have attended a full class if he or she leaves before 7:00 P.M.
- Parents are to report to “A” door and check in with the door monitor. We will send a hall monitor to bring the child from class.
- Sports practices or games are not considered an urgent reason for early dismissal.
- If Centennial School District is closed or has dismissed their students early due to inclement weather, PREP is closed.
- Centennial’s closing number is 753.
- Closings will also be broadcast on KYW 1060 radio.
- Closings will also be posted on our PREP link which you can access from the Nativity Parish’s web site. The web address is: www.nativityofourlord.org.
- We will also send an email notice whenever possible.
- Thirty hours of instruction are the norm for a Religious Education Program in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
- The Archdiocese requires that absence be no more than 15% of this time. For Nativity of Our Lord PREP, that translates to 3 classes.
- Any child who misses 4 or more sessions, and does not pass the End of the Year Test, will be required to make up work as deemed necessary by the D.R.E. and retake the test in August in order to be promoted. Parents are responsible for contacting the Religious Education Office to schedule a make up test.
- If a long term absence occurs due to illness or family situation, parents should contact the D.R.E. to arrange for make up work.
Discipline should be fair and consistent. Classroom rules are introduced during the first class, posted each week, and reviewed regularly during the school year. Minor infractions should be dealt with by the catechist or assistant.
The parish is responsible for determining what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior, both in and out of the classroom, in the PREP community generally and outside the PREP community where such improper behavior affects the school community.
Conduct by children, parents/guardians, or anyone acting on their behalf, incompatible with the educational and religious mission of the parish is grounds for disciplinary action including, but not limited to the immediate dismissal of a student, as well as reporting the incident to the proper legal authorities.
If a child repeatedly exhibits disruptive or inappropriate behavior during PREP time the following steps will be followed:
- The D.R.E. will speak with the student and develop a behavior plan.
- The D.R.E. will notify the parents of the problem.
- The D.R.E. will meet with the parents and student.
- The D.R.E. may recommend Home Study.
A serious behavioral problem may be dealt with immediately and the D.R.E. may take appropriate actions including notifying the pastor and/or calling the police.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has a safe environment policy in place. A summary is added to the end of this handbook. One lesson per year is taught in PREP. You may view these lessons online prior to it being taught at www.virtus.org.
Parents may opt out of these lessons for their child by contacting the PREP Office in writing prior to the published date on which the lesson will be taught.
It is the policy of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Nativity of Our Lord PREP that all volunteers and staff are forbidden to use any form of corporal punishment. In addition to physical abuse, this policy also prohibits sexual, psychological, verbal and emotional abuse.
Harassment, when one person repeatedly makes verbal or physical contacts with a person who does not want these contacts, by staff, volunteers and students will not be tolerated.
Some items are illegal for minors to possess and some items are considered inappropriate for a Religious Education setting.
Items such as weapons, alcohol, tobacco products, and drugs are illegal for minors to posses. Any student found to be in possession of such illegal material will be removed from class, have their parents notified as well as notification of the appropriate authorities if deemed necessary.
Some items such as, but not limited to, cell phones, iPods, MP3 players, hand held video games are not necessary for class and should not be brought to class. A catechist, assistant or the DRE may confiscate these items if they are being used during PREP. They will be returned to the parent.
Search and Seizure
It is the policy of Nativity of Our Lord PREP to respect the privacy of its participants. Unnecessary intrusions into persons and possessions are to be avoided.
However, in the event that a student is suspected of having weapons or drugs in his/her possession, the DRE is to be notified immediately. The DRE will conduct the search with an adult staff member as a witness. Refusal on the part of the student will result in parents/guardians being contacted and asked to assist with the search. Parental refusal will result in the student’s immediate dismissal from the program.
* Sacrament preparation is a joint effort of the parish, parents and Religious Education program.
* Enrollment in PREP or Day School does not imply enrollment for a sacrament. Parents must complete and return a sacrament information form in order to enroll a child for a sacrament.
* The Archdiocese of Philadelphia recommends a two year formal preparation period for reception of a sacrament.
* Parent attendance at Sacrament Preparation Meetings is an essential and required part of this program.
* Families must be registered in Nativity of Our Lord Parish or have permission from their pastor to receive a sacrament at Nativity of Our Lord.
* A baptismal certificate must be presented and a copy must be on file in the Religious Education Office.
* A fee is charged to cover the costs associated with preparing a child to receive a sacrament. Each fee and what it covers is published in the information parents receive to register their child for a sacrament.
* First Eucharist and Confirmation, along with Baptism, are Sacraments of Initiation into the full sacramental life of the Church. Active participation in the Sunday Liturgy, the Mass, is an essential part of preparation for a sacrament.
* The Religious Education Office will keep parents informed of meetings, practices, projects, dress codes, retreats and requirements for receiving a sacrament.
* Paperwork and fees have due dates. These due dates allow us sufficient time to verify information and print sacrament booklets and certificates. PLEASE OBSERVE OUR DUE DATES.
Please be aware of basic safety procedures in class and in other parts of the school, church and parking areas. Children should be supervised at all times. Children must be escorted by an adult when they are outside of the classroom.
A fire drill will be conducted during the first month of class, weather permitting. Please be aware of the fire drill route for the classroom to which you have been assigned. Also be aware of the fire drill route for any other part of the building you may be using. During a fire drill the children should leave silently and in a single file line.
In the event of another type of emergency please follow the directions given by the D.R.E. or her assistants.
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is committed to the implementation of the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The
Office of Child and Youth Protection assists parishes in the on-going development of safe
environment programs in the school, religious education program and all parish ministries which
The Safe Environment Program includes but is not limited to:
• obtaining the background checks of all archdiocesan personnel, including clergy, religious and
laity, as well as volunteers who regularly come in contact with children
• providing educational programs for students who attend Archdiocesan elementary and
secondary schools and parish religious education programs
• providing training to clergy, parish personnel, catechists, teachers and volunteers regarding
their responsibility, under civil law, as mandated reporters. This training also pertains to
Archdiocesan personnel who are working in social services and educational ministry.
All clearances must be updated every five years. It is the responsibility of parish administration to
keep the records of each employee and volunteer, and to renew these background checks.
Attendance at Safe Environment Training is expected within ninety days of start of hire.
Complete information on required background checks can be found on the Office for Child and
Youth Protection webpage on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia website (www.archphila.org).
Employees must secure the required documents within thirty days of hire. During this provisional
period, their service to children must be supervised. If the FBI Criminal History Record
(fingerprint check) is delayed in being processed, the employee from day of hire needs to provide
proof that he/she has completed the process for securing the fingerprint check.
Volunteers should have all of the required background checks as they begin their service to
children or receive provisional permission to volunteer as long as these forms are submitted within
thirty days. During this provisional period, their service to children must be supervised. Refer to
Appendix XIV for a Parish Religious Education Program Safe Environment Checklist.
PROTECTING GOD’S CHILDREN TRAINING PROGRAM (VIRTUS)
The Protecting God’s Children Program is a required awareness program for adults who are
Church employees or volunteers of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and who interact with
children. Trainees learn the signs of child sexual abuse, the methods and means by which offenders
commit abuse, and five empowerment steps to prevent or avoid sexual abuse. Training dates and
locations are listed on the Office for Child and Youth Protection webpage on the Archdiocese of
Philadelphia website (www.archphila.org).
THE STANDARDS OF MINISTERIAL BEHAVIOR AND BOUNDARIES
The Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are
intended to provide clear standards and boundaries of behavior regarding all interactions with
children and young people by priests, deacons, religious, pastoral ministers, administrators, staff
and volunteers. These standards are reviewed and signed by trainees during the safe environment
“KEEPING GOD’S CHILDREN SAFE” LESSONS
The Parish Religious Education Program is required to teach one personal safety lesson annually.
The Parish Religious Education personal safety lessons are entitled “Keeping God’s Children Safe”|
and can be found at: http://archphila.org/catechetical/resources/resources.htm.
The Office for Catechetical Formation and the Office of Child and Youth Protection recommend
that these lessons are taught in the second semester as a relationship between the catechist and
students has been established.
PARENT OPT OUT
After a review of the personal safety lesson, parents/guardians may opt out their child from the
scheduled session for the teaching of this lesson. The Director of Religious Education should,
however, encourage parents who do not wish their child to receive a personal safety lesson to
review this important lesson with their child at home.
The Director of Religious Education must obtain a written signed and dated opt out letter from the
parent or guardian. These forms are to be submitted to the Office for Children and Youth with
the annual parish audit report.
MANDATED REPORTING LAWS
Under the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) passed in 1974, all fifty
states have passed laws mandating the reporting of child abuse and neglect. A child is defined as an
individual under the age of eighteen.
Each state is responsible for:
• providing its own definition of child abuse and neglect.
• describing the circumstances and conditions that obligate mandated reporters to report known
or suspected child abuse.
• providing definitions for juvenile/family courts when to take custody of the child.
• specifying the forms of maltreatment that are criminally punishable.
Prohibiting Harassment, Intimidation, Hazing or Bullying, etc.
A safe, secure and respectful educational environment is necessary for students to learn and achieve high academic standards and build appropriate relationships with others.
The Nativity of Our Lord Parish Religious Education Program environment refuses to accept any such behaviors. Therefore, acts of harassment, hazing, intimidation and bullying (including cyber bullying and the like) are unacceptable behaviors and are prohibited in our religious education program. The religious education program personnel cannot monitor the activities of students at all times and eliminate all incidents of bullying between students, particularly when students are not under their direct supervision. However, to the extent such conduct affects the educational environment of the religious education program and the rights and welfare of the students and is within the control of the religious education program in its normal operations, it is the Nativity of Our Lord Parish Religious Education Program’s intent to prevent bullying and thus, must take action to investigate, respond, discipline and remediate those acts of bullying. Administration and the catechetical staff are to demonstrate appropriate behavior by treating others with civility and respect, and being aware of and not tolerating harassment, intimidation, hazing and bullying, etc. If incidents do occur, students should be able to report and know that the inappropriate behavior will be dealt with promptly and effectively. There will be no retaliation against a victim, reporter or witness.
Bullying involves actions or words against another for the purpose of inflicting physical or emotional harm or discomfort or damage to a person’s reputation that is intimidating or threatening and affects the learning and school environments. The following describes types of bullying but is not an exhaustive list.
* Hitting, kicking, shoving, spitting, hair pulling, or throwing something
* Getting another person to hit or harm student
* Teasing, name-calling, making critical remarks or threatening in person or by other means
* Demeaning and making another the victim of jokes
* Making rude and/or threatening gestures
* Excluding or rejecting the student
* Intimidating (bullying), extorting or exploiting
* Spreading harmful rumors or gossip
If the bully is threatening harm, a student should tell a catechist, adult volunteers and/or the Director of Religious Education immediately.
The Nativity of Our Lord Parish Religious Education must:
- Have a reporting mechanism in place
- Have an investigation procedure-oral/written statements, witnesses to those statements with signatures.
- A plan for removal of students involved for safety/investigation, if necessary
- In writing, state facts of findings (the nature of the bullying and its causes)
- Notify the Pastor
- Notify law enforcement immediately if there are terrorist threats/acts involving weapons
- Document all steps taken (Incident Report)
- Notify parents/guardians of the alleged offender and victim’s parents/guardians. (Confidentiality applies.)
- Apply disciplinary sanctions according to PREP handbook.
- Provide staff/parent/student education on bullying.