STRATFORD—As the first week drew to a close on Friday, St. Mark faculty say they aced their first test on back-to-school in the era of COVID-19.
“The kids are so happy to be back at school, as are the teachers,” shared St. Mark Principal Melissa Warner. “Even through their tiny masks you could see the excitement on their faces and they’re being so cooperative with all the health protocols we put in place.”
St. Mark faculty have been meeting all summer long planning the reopening measures, ensuring both teachers and parents had a voice in the planning process.
“I’m so excited to have everyone back,” added grade 8 Teacher Mrs. Agnes Miller. “For most of our students, St. Mark School is a second home.”
Principal Warner said families had two options this fall: in person, five days a week or at-home guided distance learning. Of the school’s 190 students in Pre-K through grade 8, twenty-two students elected remote learning. Students who are ill or presenting any symptoms of COVID-19 can also continue their education remotely if they feel well enough, added Warner.
The school welcomed 51 new students this fall, many of whom transferred from public school. Currently there are waiting lists for kindergarten, grade 4 and grade 8.
Following the guidelines of the CDC and State of Conn., Warner said they rearranged rooms, removed unnecessary furniture and spaced the desks out anywhere from 4 to 6 feet depending on the number of students in the classrooms. The students are kept in cohorts, or small groups, and teachers will move into the classrooms for special programs.
“The smaller size of our school populations and the mission driven zeal of our teachers have allowed us to be flexible in our planning, to use space and instructional time creatively and to create a school environment that is healthy, safe and nurturing,” commented Superintendent of Schools Steven Cheeseman, who is also a St. Mark Alumni Parent and School Advisory Board member.
St. Mark also hired a professional day porter to clean and sanitize high-touch surfaces throughout the day in addition to a second crew who cleans at night. The school also purchased an electrostatic mist machine, also known as a disinfectant fogger, that vaporizes a cleaning solution as an extra layer of sanitation.
“I have to say, it’s run pretty well so far,” added Warner. “It’s an educational experience for everyone. Kudos to the parents, because a lot of them had that conversation at home and now we’re an extension of that conversation.”
As for the parents, Mrs. Warner reports that the feedback has been very positive.
“We could not be happier with how this week went and the clear preparation from principal and staff to make it happen,” commented Deanna Pittore, parent of a St. Mark fourth-grader. “All the extra loving care was evident in every detail. What an amazing job St. Mark is doing to keep our kids in school, safe and still learning.”
St. Mark School is a Nationally Recognized Blue Ribbon School of Academic Excellence and a New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) accredited school, serving students in Pre-K through grade 8. For more information, visit stmarkschool.org or call 203.375.4291.