Bishop Connolly opts for hybrid opening; Catholic elementary students heading back to school full time
Originally posted on www.heraldnews.com
By Linda Murphy
FALL RIVER — With a population of about 230 students, Bishop Connolly High School is poised to offer socially distanced learning this fall.
The number of students in the school building will be about half of that every week as Connolly reopens with a hybrid model.
But for students in the Fall River Diocese Catholic elementary schools in Fall River, in-person classes will be in session from the first day of class, starting Sept. 1.
At Connolly, freshmen and sophomores will attend one week, and juniors and seniors the following week. On the at-home weeks, students will engage in remote learning, something they’re familiar with from snow days and last spring when all area students took classes from home, said Connolly Principal Kathy St. Laurent.
“We’re looking at about 150 students in our building at one time, and if you’ve been to our campus you know it’s pretty spacious,” she said, adding they’re following all the social distancing restrictions provided by the state Department of Public Health and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
At Connolly, she said, that means reduced class sizes, spacing out desks, limiting numbers in hallways, everyone wearing masks and sanitization, including cleaning desks and chairs, after each class period and overall cleaning of the school every day.
“We’re looking forward to having students in the building but we certainly want to do it in a way that promotes safety and well-being above all things,” she said.
The roster of students headed to Bishop Connolly this fall will also include about 70 students from Coyle and Cassidy High School, which closed at the end of the 2019/2020 school year. “We’re happy that many families are coming over to Bishop Connolly,” said St. Laurent.
Whether they are teaching in-person or remotely, all of the teachers will be in the Connolly building.
A resident of Somerset, St. Laurent is herself a graduate of the Fall River Diocese school system.
“I’m really excited,” she said of the upcoming year. “The goal overall above all things is to keep our students safe and healthy and to provide them with an optimal learning experience both in-person and remotely.”
St. Laurent said another focus is the social and emotional wellness of the students, particularly in this troubling time. “We want students to feel safe, we want them to be happy at school and we want them to have a great learning experience,” she said. “Really focusing on the whole child; I think that’s what we do best at Catholic schools.”
The teacher-to-student ratio at Connolly is about 10-to-1. Teachers, she said, have worked hard all summer to prepare for the upcoming school year.
The doors at Connolly open on Aug. 31. The first two days will be teacher professional days, and then student orientation starting with freshmen on Sept. 2.; sophomores and juniors on Sept. 3; and seniors on Sept. 4. The first full week will start Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day.
Elementary grade students at Espirito Santo, Holy Name, Holy Trinity, St. Michael and St. Stanislaus schools will return to the classroom for 100 percent in-percent learning on Sept. 1.
Daniel Roy, Superintendent of Schools for the Fall River Diocese, which covers an area spanning from Mansfield to Cape Cod, said the majority of the Fall River Diocese schools will be 100 percent in-person. The elementary schools are also offering at-home learning options for families who choose that route.
“The elementary schools have really worked together as they’ve prepared for reopening,” he said.
The student-to-teacher ratio varies by school and grade level, he said.
“All of our schools have carefully considered current enrollment and staffing. Supervision and care and safety and the health and well-being of our students comes first,” said Roy.
Over the course of the summer, school leaders and educator staff have embraced the challenges of the coming school year and “have prepared like no other summer,” added Roy.
He said they’ve seen an increased interest in their schools from parents in the cities and towns across the diocese as a result of the responsive way they pivoted during the stay-at-home orders last spring.
“Our teachers maintained meaningful education contact over that period and just the care and education of the whole person, which is a priority of Catholic education. I think it’s gained the notice of parents, and we have seen that increased interest in our schools as a result,” said Roy.