A New Year -- A New Look!

October 13, 2020

The 2020-2021 school year kicked off with a new look for staff and students. The schools were tasked with reshaping how they provide education and continued safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a look at the great work being done at the schools where our Sisters minister.

Nazareth Elementary
Sister Margaret Mancuso, Principal

With great excitement, Nazareth Elementary opened its doors on September 9 after six long months! Along with our eagerness to have the children back were first day butterflies. However, this year the butterflies were the questions in our minds. Did we prepare enough? Did we miss anything essential in the NYSDOH mandates? Did we have the screening process in place? Did we have enough PPE? Once the cars and buses started arriving though, our worries fluttered away. It was wonderful to see the children again! Above the masks, we saw the joy and delight in their eyes. They were so happy to be together again! School has been going very well, and except for the tears of a few preschoolers, the children have settled in beautifully and adjusted so well to this new way of education. Desks spaced apart, new procedures for walking in halls and using restrooms, water bottles, and extra handwashing have all become normal to them. The main reminder we have to give is to keep masks covering noses. What would be the same if you could visit right now?

  • Decorated classrooms and hallways
  • Creative teaching at all levels
  • Happy children engaged in the learning process
  • Student work hanging in the halls
  • A dedicated and caring staff
  • A spirit of warmth and love
  • The laughter of children on the playground
  • Daily prayer together led by a student over PA and classroom prayers

What would be different at Nazareth?

  • Face masks on staff and students
  • Temperature checks and screening of staff and students daily
  • Hand sanitizer at each door, in every room and office
  • Paw print decals spaced six feet apart in every hallway
  • Signs reminding children to keep three steps apart on the stairs
  • “Wash your hands” signage by every sink
  • Shields on office counters, tables and in the cafeteria
  • Classroom desks and music chairs spaced six feet apart
  • Water bottles instead of drinking fountains
  • Rhythm and dance lessons in music rather than singing
  • 15 children learning remotely for the first quarter
  • All K-6 children will soon be working on personal Chromebooks (purchased through Title I funding)

While the face of education has changed, the spirit of Nazareth has not. We are so grateful to all who have continued to support us with prayers and donations. We are grateful to parents for remaining safe at home so we can remain safe at school. We are grateful to the Leadership Team for their ongoing support. I am most grateful to our incredible staff who have gone above and beyond for months to give Nazareth a safe and awesome beginning!

Nazareth began in 1871. Almost 150 years later, we continue the mission to address the needs of the times through education. Our children and their families need Nazareth more than ever now. The Nazareth community is a sign of hope and a place of peace in a troubled world. It is a place where faith, love and learning thrive! Please hold us in your good prayers that this will be a healthy year for all. Check out our website and Facebook page for more highlights.

Hope Hall
Sister Diana Dolce, Executive Director

COVID-19 has presented numerous challenges for the education system, but the unique learning needs of Hope Hall students further complicated the planning process to safely re-open school while still providing the specialized approach to education that our students need. I asked five women who are part of Hope Hall’s leadership team to come together with me as a COVID Safety Committee to tackle this monumental task. With the help of some content area experts, and well over 100 hours of work, the Committee developed a Re-opening Plan that was submitted to and approved by: the State Education Department, the State Health Department and the Monroe County Health Department.

One month into the new school year, the plan is proving effective in keeping the Hope Hall Community safe and everyone is adjusting well to the new normal, including wearing masks, social distancing, and health screens with temperature checks. We are providing our youngest students (grades 2-5) in-school education five days a week, knowing that they are not able to independently navigate online learning and their parents are all working. The Middle and High School students are currently on alternating hybrid learning schedules, which involves two days in school and three days of online learning. In order to support this Hybrid model, we had to make extensive technology upgrades, which cost in excess of $92,000; we have been fortunate to be able to secure almost all of the funding through grants. We also had to get 27 laptops for students who did not have computers at home. Thanks to our caring and generous Board of Trustees and individual donors, we were able to collect enough donations to purchase rebuilt laptops and ensure that our students have the resources they need to complete the online learning portion of their education.

In addition to adapting to a hybrid education model, we have also had to adjust in-person activities to ensure the safety of our community. Students eat lunches in their homerooms in order to allow for social distancing while masks are off, and keep students in what the State refers to as “Cohorts.” Administration and teachers who are not working with students during lunch time serve as lunch monitors. They are coming up with fun ways to make sure lunchtime is still a source of fun and relaxation for the students. I personally enjoy leading Bingo with the fourth and sixth graders on Mondays and have been searching for prizes that would appeal to this age group. When weather allows, outdoor recess on the playground by homeroom is a popular activity and a welcomed opportunity to have fun and get some exercise.

Hope Hall is also coming up with ways to adapt time-honored traditions. For at least the last 15 years, our elementary students have taken a field trip in the Fall to pick their own pumpkins. This year we brought the Pumpkin Patch to the students. Our Principal, Jacelyn Droegmoeller, got pumpkins and hay donated and students were able to go pumpkin picking right in our parking lot. We also have adjusted our morning “Community Meetings” to be online via Zoom and, while it can never replace in-person, seeing so many smiling, attentive faces come together each morning is helping to keep the sense of community that makes Hope Hall unique. In the coming months we will continue to adapt and persevere in order to stay faithful to our common goal: a safe, welcoming education experience for students with unique learning needs.

Nativity Preparatory Academy
Jennifer Kremer, Principal

Our school year has begun and we are all navigating this new journey together with smiles in our eyes! Nativity, serving students from Rochester grades 5-8, has a current enrollment of 59 children. We are so honored to be able to provide our students with in-person learning Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 2:00 PM, while at the same time providing synchronous distance learning for a small group of at-home students. In these challenging times, we know the important role we play in the lives of children and have made their safety top priority.

We at Nativity are blessed with a big building and a small student population, combined with a dedicated and exceptional staff to minister to both the social-emotional and academic needs of every child. We have made numerous modifications to our building including water bottle filling stations, distanced student workstations, bathroom upgrades, daily sanitation crew, meal safety procedures, minimal traffic flow, floor stickers, daily health and temperature checks and PPE distributed daily! These added measures, although lengthy, are such a small price to pay in order to continue the mission – the mission that your prayers and support make possible.

As we embark on a new year, we are filled with such hope as we are able to greet our students at the door each morning. They have missed school and have especially missed the walls and people of Nativity. The gratitude they express is only a fraction of what they realize they are truly feeling. We are working so hard as a team of learners, exploring new ways to help students achieve despite the restraints and procedures. Their willingness to press on and continue the mission inspires us all to keep moving forward.

We continue to ask the wonderful Sisters of Saint Joseph for continued prayers to bless us all on this new journey and instill a deepened understanding of our call to justice through the work at Nativity. We are always lifted up by our connection to the Sisters, and humbled by the legacy of God’s work they have done for so long.

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