‘Smooth as silk.’ Shelton’s HTCA welcomes students back

SHELTON—Masks on their faces couldn’t hide the enthusiasm Monday morning as students and teachers at Holy Trinity Catholic Academy came together for the first time in more than five months.

The Catholic school is holding in-class learning only, and HTCA Director Lisa Lanni said the first day reinforced the administration’s confidence in its COVID-19 mitigation plans.

“Today was just wonderful,” Lanni said. “It was far better than we anticipated. Everyone was so excited to be back.”

Lanni said the school welcomed 53 new students this year, and that added to the excitement of seeing children making new friends.

Holy Trinity Catholic Academy is running half days for the week, with teachers and students spending the time getting acclimated to the rules—wearing masks, social distancing and before-school temperature checks, Lanni said.

Next week, Lanni said, staff and students will be back for full days of hitting the books.

“We sent out a video to parents about the reopening plan, with hopes that they would go over everything with their children,” Lanni said. “They obviously did, from what we saw today. The kids did exactly what we asked of them. It was a good feeling to see them get it right.”

The Diocese of Bridgeport has a detailed reopening plan that focuses on in-person instruction but does include a distance learning option if one or more of the schools under its direction are forced to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lanni said her facility’s detailed preparation plans and focus on technology has created an “uptick” in inquiries for placement. Lanni said the school is still accepting students and could easily hold 199 students and still adhere to all social distancing guidelines with small class sizes.

HTCA’s average class size is 15. Some classrooms can hold as many as 25 students, Lanni said, and still follow social distancing guidelines which call for six feet between desks and children remaining six feet apart.

“The public schools have struggled to pull together its plans,” said Lanni about why some parents are looking at private schools like HTCA. “Because of their size, it is difficult to guarantee a safe environment for in-person learning. And parents need school. It is tough to play teacher as well as mom and dad.”

School requirements call for all adults entering the building to wear face masks. Students must wear face masks at times when social distancing may not be possible, such as during recess.

Lanni said the staff had worries—will we get the temperature checks done quickly enough so it would not impact the school day? Will students stay 6 feet apart, or will they congregate as the day goes on? Will students keep masks on when required?

“We all did it,” Lanni said. “It went smooth as silk. We want to take it one day at a time … make sure everyone keeps following the protocols … but if today is any indication, we are off to a great start.”

In Trumbull, Rachel Ambrosini, principal, St Catherine of Siena, was prepping for their opening day on Tuesday.

“We’re feeling confident and ready to go. We’ve got direction signs on the walls, and we’ve closed half the stalls in the bathrooms. We have the stickers, I call them lily pads, on the floor so the kids know where to stand when they’re waiting for the bus,” she said.

There are hand sanitizing stations in every room, and the school will operate with its windows and doors open, and ventilators circulating air in each classroom. The school also has two large tents that were donated that teachers can sign up to use for outdoor classes, she said.

By Brian Gioiele   I   Shelton Herald