Diocesan Schools’ Strong Response

FAIRFIELD COUNTY—While all diocesan school academy buildings are closed through the end of March, they will continue to serve the educational needs of their students.

“Schools have launched their distance learning programs to ensure continuity of education, and teachers and staff are working remotely using various technological tools,” said Dr. Steven Cheeseman, Superintendent of Schools.

Virtual office hours and a video help desk have been set up for teachers and parents who need assistance, and each individual school will set times when they will be open to address any student, family and faculty needs. Dr. Cheeseman noted that the introduction of Personalized Learning in diocesan schools over the past two years has better-prepared teachers and students for online learning platforms.

“I’m really encouraged by how prepared our teachers are to meet this challenge. While other school systems around us are closed for now, we are most definitely open” said Alan Barnicle, diocesan Personalized Learning Coordinator. “Our principals were alerted that a shutdown might happen, and we asked them to work with teachers to prepare long-distance lesson plans. I want to give Superintendent Steve Cheeseman praise for his leadership in getting ahead of this situation.”

Because the Personalized Learning Initiative has been in place for two years, principals and teachers are comfortable working as a team with the Office of the Superintendent of Schools (OSS). “This has provided the structure and confidence teachers need to be ahead of the curve,” noted Project Manager Debra Mitchell.

Coordinator Barnicle agreed. “Our teachers are prepared. Instead of asking, ‘What on earth are we going to do,’ we get calls from teachers for specific information on best practices. “They might  ask ‘what the best way to engage students during a video lesson’ or ‘what is the best way to assess student learning online.”
He noted that principals and teachers are aware that some families do not have computers at home. “We have both high-tech and low-tech components,” he said, with opportunities to send parents lesson packets with follow-up assessments by phone. Schools are also loaning out Chromebooks to families who need one.

The result is that every school is prepared to meet its students’ needs. In common with other diocesan high schools, Immaculate High School in Danbury has moved its curriculum into the cloud and is teaching everything online so that students have full-schedule days from home.

For the young students at St. Raphael Academy in the heart of Bridgeport, part of the Catholic Academy of Bridgeport, teachers used the advance notice to prepare a packet of work for students to take home. They are checking in with families by email, phone or video conferencing during the extended school closure. “We are hoping to connect with each family at least three times a week,” Sister Christine, St. Raphael’s Principal, told parents.

Dr. Cheeseman is grateful for the full cooperation of principals, faculty, and staff. “I appreciate your leadership as we set out into these unchartered waters. It is at times like this that I am especially grateful for the collegial spirit that exists among you,” he wrote in a letter to principals.

(For the latest updates on school policies, visit the diocesan Catholic Schools website special coronavirus page: For tweets from individual schools, visit