Saint Paul's Choir School Update

August 7, 2020

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Dear Saint Paul's Community:

We continue to move through these extraordinary times looking towards the moment when we come together again as a community. The planning for re-opening school began months ago while we were still recovering from the worst of the pandemic’s impact on New England. We are forced to make tough decisions that are never easy, but at the core, we remain committed to the guiding precepts that I have repeated often over the months: ensuring the health and safety of our Saint Paul’s Community; creating outstanding and vigorous academic and music experiences that support exceptional learning and growth; and staying current with the evolving and best practices and determining the best way to implement them.

Re-Entry Planning Update: Our shift at this time is towards communicating more frequently through various venues and through different media the ways that we will return to in person learning. We need everyone to be informed so that we can minimize the possibility of anyone in our community being infected by COVID.

Mrs. Flaherty launched Monday morning information session and will continue to do so for the near future. Our Wednesday morning Coffee Series provided opportunities for new families to meet key members of our staff and for returning members to be able to ask questions about what our new normal will be like when we return. Our next Coffee Hour will be hosted by Mr. Kennerley on Wednesday, August 12 to discuss the music programs. He will follow up the next day with a Zoom meeting to inform all Choristers what to expect during our re-opening period at 3:30 on Thursday, August 13. Watch for an invitation in your email for both events. Thank you to our two new teachers for the third and fourth grades, Ms. Buechner and Ms. Amburn for hosting the recent Coffee Hour and sharing their hopes, expectations and experiences.

Staff: Much of my work for the past week has been to finalize our staffing for our academic program. I am truly pleased to welcome another new member to our faculty, Mrs. Karen Celano. While not new to many of our returning families (Karen served as the Secretary of our Parent Guild), many of you may not know as much about Karen’s extraordinary educational credentials. We are very pleased to have her join our staff as the Religion and Latin teacher and perhaps more importantly as our Director of Instruction. Karen comes to us from Boston College High School where she most recently taught Religion and Philosophy to middle and high school boys. Notably, some of our graduates were here students and participated in philosophy discussions with our current students during our Frassati Society gatherings. Ms. Celano is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University where she studied History and graduated with Honors, being awarded the Arthur Kouguell Prize for Best Honors Thesis in the Department of History. She then pursued Religious Studies at Yale University and completed her Master of Theology at the University of Notre Dame with a focus on the History of Christianity. Did I mention that she is also the parent of a Chorister, Thomas.

In her role as Director of Instruction, Karen will be working closely with me and the faculty to continue to review and improve our academic programming. She will also oversee our accreditation process with NEASC, for which our two-year review is due in October. Our work this coming year will be to continue to implement the ELA curriculum from Teacher’s College, Columbia University that we launched two years ago under Ms. Fox’s leadership. I am pleased to share that Ms. Cunha has been working very hard this summer to revise our curriculum maps that were designed for dual age classrooms so that we can pivot seamlessly into this year’s single age classrooms. Over the course of the next year we will be reviewing and adjusting our Math Curriculum with the assistance of Mr. Maurer, who won the Catholic School’s outstanding teacher awards for his achievements as a Math and Science teacher. Our teachers are working throughout this summer to prepare for the coming year, knowing that it will be one that requires an altogether effort to meet our goals.

I am also pleased to announce that Mr. Liam Warner will be re-joining us as an Associate Teacher, providing instruction for our eighth graders in English Language Arts and supporting our Latin program. Familiar with our eighth graders as their Latin Teacher during the previous year, Mr. Warner graduated from Harvard last spring where he studied Classical Languages and Literature with a minor in Economics. He will be joining us full time and assuming responsibility as home room teacher for the eighth grade. As a member of the editorial board of the Harvard Crimson, he wrote regular editorial features. He was a Robert Bartley Fellow for the Wall Street Journal and an intern for the National Review. In addition to teaching ELA and Latin, he will serve as a writing coach for our upper grade students and the editor of the school newspaper. For anyone seeking assistance with Math, he was also a Mathnasium Instructor prior to matriculating to Harvard.

Facilities: The outreach from Fr. Kelly to parishioners at St. Paul’s to help the Choir School improve our environment is taking shape on the third floor and second floor. As the pictures represent, the place is still out of order with construction workers installing duct work, condenser units and air conditioning circulators. The crews are making steady progress and will be complete with the installation of an upgraded HVAC system. In addition to heating and A/C units, we will be cleaning out our fresh air circulation ventilation system so that we can pump in more fresh air to all the classrooms, offices and common areas in the school. In addition, we will be investing in special air scrubbers equipped with three stage filters and UV germicidal lights that kill bacteria, mold and COVID viruses that are trapped in aerosols. The filters will be installed in both rehearsal rooms and DiGiovanni Hall to clean the air six times every hour.

A hearty group of boys worked all Friday morning to carry desks and chairs that are being retired to make room for new furniture purchased for the third and fourth grade classrooms. They staged the eighth-grade classroom with desks mapping out six feet of separation between each one and allowing for a six-foot buffer zone for instructors. Our magnificent rehearsal room is still undergoing renovations and will likely not be complete by the time that school begins. The entire room has been emptied of the voluminous music library, which will now be accommodated in newly constructed shelving in the place of lockers that were lining the hall. Storage space has also been allocated to stow away the robes neatly in the spaces vacated by lockers directly across the hall. The renovated rehearsal room will sport a new coat of paint and newly installed wood floor to provide an even more magnificent acoustic. Mr. Kennerley has been directing the project and looks forward to a ribbon cutting “virtual” ceremony before October comes along.

We will be using outdoor space as much as is feasible during the early months of the school year and have purchased two canopies to provide shelter from the sun in the inner courtyard near Room 101. Mrs. Flaherty has been hard at work ordering furniture, PPE and hygiene supplies for our newly outfitted Comfort, Care and Isolation Room that is now located in Room 101. Please do your best to stock up on supplies of hand sanitizer and other PPE for home if supplies run low.

Academic Year Schedule: We will publish the Academic Year one-page schedule either this weekend or early next week. We hope that this will provide you with an outline of the major events, timelines for term beginning and ends and vacation days over the course of the Academic Year. Our more detailed week-to-week schedule will be published in another week or so once we are able to resolve some of the early dates for events that are still pending.

Please join Mrs. Flaherty’s information session on Monday, August 10th, during which she will provide more information on our health screening protocols and how we are asking parents and the boys to do their best to monitor their health every day before arriving. Time permitting, she will also share some of the emerging details of what the day-to-day new normal will be like in our classrooms and during the daily schedule. Watch for an invitation in your email with Zoom information and do tune in!

Frequently Asked Questions: We will continue to update and add to our frequently asked questions that are now posted on the Parent Portal on the website. If you have questions, please share them with us as well as your ideas on we can help you to best prepare for the upcoming school year.

Many thanks for all who continue to pray for a successful year ahead. Our Parent Guild members continue to meet for a Zoom Rosary prayer every evening at 8:00 p.m. Families have collectively prayed the rosary continuously for twenty-one weeks since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic sent us home for remote learning on March 13. Your unwavering support of our school with your prayers for peace and good health for our nation and the world is being heard.

Thomas Haferd

Head of School