The first day of school has an energy all its own.
The scramble by parents to get the kids out the door on time, the buzz of anticipation in the halls, the shuffling of chairs as everyone settles down for the first bell – it’s always a special day for students, for teachers, and for school leaders.
There is anxiety on the first day too, and this year, the Coronavirus has added another layer of uncertainty. But judging from the comments of students, parents, teachers and school principals after the first week of school, things are running smoothly so far.
“It took a tremendous amount of planning this year, on top of the usual preparations we do every year, to be ready to safely greet students for the first time since our buildings were closed last March,” said Dr. Brooke Tesché, Chancellor of Catholic Education.
“I’m extremely proud of our students and their parents, as well as our teachers, administrators and pastors, for everything they did to launch a successful, productive, and faith-filled school year,” she said.
Most Catholic school students returned to class in-person, while others opted for on-line instruction for the time being. Many schools had the space to accommodate all students in a socially-distant way, and those that didn’t adopted a hybrid schedule in which students attend some days in-person and learned remotely for some days each week.
“It’s just so good to hear the sounds of children in our school again,” said Teresa Keating, principal of Assumption BVM School in Pottsville. In Douglassville, at Immaculate Conception Academy, Principal Lisa Forkin said students were well-versed in safety protocols. “I have to say the kids were fantastic,” she said. “They knew exactly what to do!”
Parents, too, were pleased. “It was very evident that a lot of thought and careful planning went into all aspects of the school day,” said one. “My son has been coming home very happy every day,” said another.
Demand for Catholic education was up this year, with 19 schools through the five counties of the Diocese reporting that they had waiting lists of students hoping to attend.
“We’re very blessed to have been able to open our schools for in-person learning this year, thanks to the thorough preparation and planning at our schools, and to the faith of our parents and students,” said Dr. Tesché. “We know there may be challenges on the horizon, as our nation continues to recover from the effects of the virus, but with God’s help, we’re ready.”
Bishop Alfred Schlert, in a letter to educators at the end of the first week, commended them for their extraordinary efforts to prepare for classes this year.
“Regardless of the instructional delivery method that your school is using, as always, our Catholic identity remains the foundation and guiding force of all we do, each and every day, either in-person or virtual,” he said.
“Working in collaboration with parents, the primary educators, we must continue to provide an excellent education rooted in the Gospel which has to permeate all areas of the school culture and activities.”