Eight Elementary Schools Redesigned, With Room to Grow

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Eight regional Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese will take on a new shape in the 2020-2021 academic year, the Office of the Superintendent of Schools announced Feb. 24.

The changes include the formation of three new academies, one in East Harlem from two schools, and two on Staten Island from four schools. One of the academies on Staten Island will honor Servant of God Father Vincent Capodanno, M.M., a Staten Island native and Navy chaplain who died a hero in Vietnam.

Two schools in Rockland County will unite to form a new school, with one building housing the second through eighth grade and the other an Early Childhood Learning Center for students in pre-kindergarten, universal pre-k, kindergarten and first grade.

“Our commitment to Catholic education is as strong as ever and we have our fingers on the pulse of our communities and understand the needs they have for a high quality education rooted in the Catholic faith,” said Cardinal Dolan in a statement.

“We understand the impact this will have on families and will provide both pastoral support and educational guidance to all those affected in order to ensure all children will be warmly welcomed into their new Catholic school building where they will continue to learn and thrive.

“Our mission is to preserve Catholic education in New York for years to come.”

On Staten Island, St. Adalbert School and Holy Rosary School will become the Father Vincent Capodanno Catholic Academy in the present Holy Rosary school building. The canonization cause for the Maryknoll Missionary priest is under consideration. Father Capodanno, 38, died Sept. 4, 1967, felled by 27 bullets while rushing to administer the sacraments to Marines under enemy ambush.

The larger Holy Rosary campus will permit both school communities, pre-k through eighth grade, to enhance existing programs and increase community partnerships. Also in the 2020-2021 school year, there will be an exploration of the possibility of creating educational opportunities beyond elementary school, which would welcome traditional learners and others with varying learning styles.

Diane Hesterhagen, who is the principal of St. Adalbert School, will be the academy principal. Elizabeth Campbell, the principal of Holy Rosary, will serve as assistant principal/early childhood director.

St. Rita School and St. Teresa School on Staten Island will become one school with a focus on the Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (STREAM) curriculum, to be known as the St. Teresa-St. Rita STREAM Academy, in the St. Teresa school building.

The larger St. Teresa campus will allow both school communities, pre-k through eighth grade, to enhance existing programs, including the expansion of the pre-k program and the new STREAM program.

The principal will be Nicole Garelick-Fresca, the principal of St. Rita School. The assistant principal will be Rita Azzopardi, the principal of St. Teresa School.

In Manhattan, two schools will be unified, creating a new academy to better serve the East Harlem community. St. Ann the Personal School will be welcomed into the St. Paul School building and the entity will be known as the Academy of St. Paul and St. Ann.

The academy, pre-k through eighth grade, will have additional room for growth. It will offer new academic and program enhancement opportunities beyond what is now offered to both student bodies. St. Ann has limitations in both classroom size and recreational space, while St. Paul has exemplary outdoor play facilities and academic spaces, and room for expansion. Bringing the schools together ensures all students in the new academy will continue to have access to a rigorous, personalized curriculum that includes a robust music and arts program and a state-of-the-art science lab.

Christian Toala, the principal of St. Paul School, will be the academy’s principal.

In Rockland County, St. Anthony School in Nanuet will join St. Paul School in Valley Cottage to form St. Anthony-St. Paul School, operating as one school with two campuses, utilizing both buildings.

Beginning this fall, the current St. Anthony School will host students in the second through eighth grade, while the current St. Paul School will be a dedicated early childhood learning center, focused on students in pre-kindergarten, universal pre-k (UPK), kindergarten and first grade.

The following year, in 2021-2022 and beyond, the St. Paul campus will host pre-kindergarten, UPK, kindergarten, first and second grade, while the St. Anthony campus will host third through eighth grade.

The reorganization offers the opportunity to pilot a new and robust focus on concentrated instruction for third through eighth grade while better serving the unique needs of the youngest students.      

The early childhood education program will focus on alignment with the new New York State Department of Education P-3 (pre-k through second grade) continuum to ensure a strong educational foundation. An added benefit of housing the early childhood program at one location will be the ability to provide a summer camp program, which will be open to the youngest learners from all of the Rockland Catholic schools.

Dr. Anna Adam, principal of St. Anthony, will be the school leader at the Nanuet campus for the second through eighth grade. Michelle Powrie, principal of St. Paul, will be the school leader at the Valley Cottage campus for pre-kindergarten, UPK, kindergarten and first grade.

Michael Deegan, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, recently discussed the changes in an interview with CNY in his office at the New York Catholic Center in Manhattan.

“We’re imagining the future for Catholic education,” Deegan said. “We’re always looking for opportunities to reach a broader community of families looking for Catholic education.”

The superintendent underscored that the archdiocese “is committed to investing resources into the reimagining” of the Catholic school system. “It’s not status quo. It’s not what we’ve always done, we continue to do. We’re always looking for innovation and ways that we can re-create ourselves.”

Deegan said the operational changes being put in place look to the future by “taking the mission of Catholic schools, taking the academic excellence that we’ve already established, and going beyond that, and recreating them even in a more visionary way, making them even better than they are today.”

At the same time, he added, they will remain “unapologetically rigorous to the mission of Catholic education and Catholic schools, which is fidelity to our faith and to the Church.”

“We do not want to simply have our Catholic schools survive, we want our Catholic schools to thrive. And the way in which we can thrive is to ensure that our schools are, in fact, rigorously Catholic, academically excellent and capture and embody innovation and innovative programs and resources.”

There was substantial analysis conducted, Deegan said, to ensure the facilities selected to house the new school entities can accommodate growth, and will lend themselves to the kind of technology and instruction for “activities and programs before, during and after school to accommodate 21st century learning.”

The website of each school may be accessed through www.catholicschoolsny.org.

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