It’s back to school as usual, but not in the usual place, for students of Sacred Heart School in Newburgh.
Two weeks after the school was closed due to heating issues, and the discovery of subsequent structural issues that led to the building being condemned, students were to return to classes on Feb. 1 at the former St. Joseph’s School in New Windsor, where they will attend school at least until the end of the school year. The goal is for the school to return to its home in Newburgh in the fall. Because classes at Sacred Heart School had been suspended since Jan. 18, students did their schoolwork at home.
Sacred Heart School, 24 S. Robinson Ave., and the former St. Joseph’s School, 148 Windsor Highway, are less than two miles apart.
“We still are Sacred Heart, and we’re Sacred Heart strong,” said principal Lori Evanko. That is the message she and her faculty and staff have been relaying to the students since the ordeal began.
“Everybody’s upbeat,” she said. “We’re looking forward to the rest of the year being really great.”
“The full force of the archdiocese,” in particular Dr. Timothy McNiff, the archdiocese’s superintendent of schools and his staff; Cathleen Cassel, Sacred Heart’s regional superintendent, and the other superintendents, “have been amazing,” Mrs. Evanko said.
“They really have helped us every step of the way.”
She commended her students—who admitted that they missed going to school—for their resilience and for being accommodating during the disturbance to their regular school schedule. “They’re smiling, they’re happy, they’re doing their work,” she said last week of the students’ dispositions while working from their homes.
Enrollment at Sacred Heart, a regional school for pre-K through eighth grades, is 183, according to the principal.
Catholic Schools Week, which began Jan. 29 and runs through Feb. 4, will be celebrated by Sacred Heart School one week later, due to this year’s unique circumstances, the principal said.
The building has a storied history with the Sacred Heart community; many of the students’ parents were once students there themselves.
“It’s not the building that makes us; we make the building,” the principal has assured students and parents alike. “No matter where we go, we’re together.”
“They’re an amazing community, because they just pull together,” she added.
“They really do follow Christ in the respect that they do what they have to do for each other. And they don’t just worry about themselves. It’s a very caring community.”
Prayers that have been poured out on the school’s behalf have helped immeasurably, the principal said. “We’re in good spirits. We’re looking forward to the future.”
While classes were suspended at the school in Newburgh, students were given daily assignments to work on at home. Materials were distributed to families at a building on the campus of Sacred Heart parish that’s across the street from the school. Additionally, if there were concerns or problems, teachers were available to students and parents on a rotational basis there. Even the school nurse remained on site at the Catholic Charities Center, including for students who relied on her regular care.
Some instructions, assignments and exams were administered to the second through eighth grades through the online vehicle Edmodo. Regents classes, which are high school classes administered to eighth-graders, were held in the parish chapel.
Although each teacher made a schedule, students were given flexibility to complete assignments or to participate in online discussion boards.
Throughout the suspension of classes at the Sacred Heart School building, the principal, teachers and staff were permitted to remain working there. They maintained communication with parents through email and social media, including Facebook.
“Parents are a very big part of everything that we do,” Mrs. Evanko said. “They really have a lot of access to us. We are a family. Families stick together.”