2021 Back to School in the Diocese of Trenton

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BACK to SCHOOL

Faithful and safe:

Catholic schools ‘are up to the challenge’

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ello! Last year, I wrote to you in the “Back to School” issue of The Monitor about what my plans were as the new Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Trenton. My job, as I saw it, was two-fold: build on the successes that made our Catholic schools great, and work towards our students becoming even more service-oriented, if possible. A Message from

DR. VINCENT DE PAUL SCHMIDT Superintendent of Catholic Schools

Well, I would like to think that we succeeded on both of those accounts. Our Catholic schools remained open during a global pandemic and our programs, despite the circumstances, thrived under the “new normal.” Our academic scores held on to be very strong, our enrollments went up in many

schools and our programs were filled with life. Our students were smiling and were happy to be in our schools on the many visits that I made to the schools and the events that I attended. Furthermore, I was witness to an abundance of service in our schools – whether it was a formal service program like “diapers for newborns,” or canned food collections around the holidays, or children just showing true kindness to their fellow students who were struggling during the day. I have been a witness to many examples of one student helping another student that might have been struggling with issues of the pandemic, sickness, loss of a loved one or even the stress of the day. Stories like this make me, as a Catholic educator, so proud that our Catholic values and spirit are coming through in the students in our Catholic school programs. The 2021-2022 school begins again, under the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic. Masks are mandated in the

schools, social distancing is still being applied, and students are still having their lives disrupted by the constant threat of this deadly virus. Having said that, our schools again this year are up to the challenges we are facing. Our teachers, selfless and dedicated, are will-

 “... keep these schools open with safe and secure environments ...” ing to do whatever is necessary to make our mission of Catholic education come alive in the classrooms. Our administrators are dedicated to creating the most safe and secure environment possible for Catholic learning to be nurtured and delivered. As tough as the circumstances may look, the future is so very bright because of our Catholic schools’ commitment to their students and your children.

Students at Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Asbury Park, wave and give thumbs up in this Sept. 1 photo at the start of the 2021-22 school year. Mike Ehrmann photo

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The job of the Superintendent this year continues to be two-fold: keep the Catholic mission alive in our schools and keep these schools open with safe and secure environments. I am encouraged and excited about what the schools collectively have planned for this school year. It should be an outstanding year filled with faith opportunities, academic growth, social development and fun (despite the pandemic). Please take a moment and say a prayer every day for the end to this global pandemic and in thanksgiving for the continued blessing of the communities within our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Trenton. The mission of Catholic education continues stronger each day, and with parent support, we will continue to deliver and forge the future of our faith with our students understanding the Gospel, living a life of service to others and becoming true disciples of Christ. Thank you for your constant support of our Catholic schools. With Warmest Regards,

Vincent de Paul Schmidt, Ed.D.

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BACK to SCHOOL

School year begins with state mandates to keep school

communities safe

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n response to public health directives regarding the pandemic and in an effort to keep students, teachers and staff healthy, Catholic schools in the Diocese of Trenton, like their public school counterparts, began the new school year with mask mandates for all school occupants and vaccination or testing mandates for teachers and staff. The surge of the Delta variant of the Sars CoV-2 virus in the state prompted Governor Phil Murphy to require that all students, educators, staff and visitors in New Jersey schools – both public and private institutions – will be required to wear face masks indoors for the start of the 2021-2022 school year. Additionally, on Aug. 23, the governor announced in Executive Order 253 that all school personnel throughout the state must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 18 or be subjected to weekly testing. Concerned over rising infection levels this summer, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., addressed the topic of safety measures in an Aug. 16 message posted to diocesan media. He stated, “We all have been hoping and praying that the effects of the pandemic would be well behind us by the time we opened our Catholic school doors for the 2021-22 academic year. Sad to say, that is not the case.”

 Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Asbury Park, students properly follow the mandates about wearing facemasks to help lessen the chance of spreading or catching the virus. Mike Ehrmann photo 36   THE MONITOR MAGAZINE   September 2021

The Bishop continued, “Although much progress has thankfully been made in so many areas of endeavor, the pandemic continues to make its presence felt through Delta and other emerging COVID variants, causing spikes in the virus in many parts of the country, including here in our own state of New Jersey.” Gov. Murphy signed Executive Order 251 mandating masking indoors in all public, private and parochial preschool, elementary and secondary school buildings, with limited exceptions, effective Aug. 9. The order was made using recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, both of which have called for students to wear masks in light of the increasing  “... we can prevalence of Delta, the ineligibility of children under 12 to receive keep our vaccines, and a rise in pediatric COVID-19 cases. Executive Order schools open 253 requiring staff vaccination does while also not apply to students. Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, keeping our diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, in memos to school princhildren safe.” cipals Aug. 17 and Aug. 23 emphasized that the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Trenton have followed the mandates that were formally outlined in Executive Order 175 as well as the directives of the local health departments in which the Diocese’s schools are located. He wrote, “The protocol of following State of New Jersey mandates and the recommendations of the local health departments will continue. Dr. Schmidt pointed to documented effectiveness and success of mask-wearing and vaccines. Masks, he reiterated, have been “an effective tool in combating the spread of the virus through airborne transmission,” and that the wearing of face coverings by all students, faculty, staff and administrators “will ensure safety as the highest of priorities.” He continued, “This Executive Order 253 does provide a weekly testing option for those that do not want to receive the vaccine and opt out. There is funding for both the public and private schools to offset the cost of regular testing.” The Bishop and Dr. Schmidt acknowledged that the announcements were met with opposition from some Catholic school parents, and support from others. But, Bishop O’Connell stipulated, the schools of the Diocese “are obliged to observe that


 Students at Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, are ‘masked up’ and ready to launch in to a new academic year. Photo courtesy of Notre Dame High School Facebook photo

statewide public health mask mandate in school facilities, with the exception of times and activities noted in the Governor’s order. We have no choice since this is a statewide public health requirement for all New Jersey K-12 schools,” Bishop O’Connell said. Gov. Murphy defended the mandate announcement, emphasizing the need for

students to attend classes in person. “We understand that students learn best in a classroom setting and remain committed to having our schools open for full-time, in person instruction this fall,” he said in an Aug. 6 press conference. “While this announcement gives us no pleasure, I know that by taking this precaution we can keep our schools open while also keeping our children safe.” He promised that his office would continue to monitor new data and lift the mandate when it was determined safe to do so, while urging those eligible for vaccination to “act and help move our state in the right direction.” “We are fortunate that our Catholic schools will be able to resume classes and other activities ‘in person’ rather than on-

line,” Bishop O’Connell encouraged. “That fact, alone, will make a big difference in teaching and learning as well as in socialization so necessary and so missed last year among and within our Catholic school communities. … We move forward, now, grateful to be ‘back in school,’ hoping that the mask mandate will be short-lived.” Committed to keep students learning in the best possible environment, Dr. Schmidt wrote, “If the COVID pandemic forces a different path forward, the Catholic schools will (as we have done since March 2020), adapt and do everything possible to keep our schools open with the safety and health of our students as the primary concern.” To read Bishop O’Connell’s message, visit https://trentonmonitor.com/Content/Default/Bishop-s-Corner/Article/ Back-to-school-on-the-journey-back-tonormal/-3/260/28045 To read Gov. Murphy’s full mandates, visit https://nj.gov/governor/

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BACK to SCHOOL

The dedicated wrestling facility for St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, has been a long time coming. Photo courtesy of Pat Smith

Variety of updates await school sports teams this fall BY RICH FISHER  Contributing Editor

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new school year has brought about some new and improved landscapes for the athletic programs at several Catholic schools in the Diocese of Trenton: In St. John Vianney High School, Holmdel, the wrestling program has finally gotten a facility it can call its own, which lives up to the success the program has enjoyed over the years. What once was a health room/auxiliary room has been retrofitted into strictly a wrestling room for the team to hold practice. “I would say we won in the past in spite of having a stateof-the-art-facility,” said assistant athletic director Pat Smith, a former SJV wrestling coach. “This year we have five of the top 20 wrestlers in their weight class coming in and the top wrestler in his weight class, and now it’s appropriate they have their space that they haven’t had in the past.”

When Smith began as head coach, the Lancers practiced in an auxiliary space shared by gym classes. From there, it moved into a bubble that was divided into thirds by curtains. “It was cold in the winter, and the cheerleaders were in there, so it was kind of loud. It was a great idea, but it didn’t work out,” he said. From there the team moved to the cafeteria to practice, which Smith said “wasn’t the most sanitary thing and kind of embarrassing too.” Finished in August, the wrestling room is connected to the strength and conditioning center, making it more convenient for grapplers to go from workouts to weightlifting. “Safety was a big concern, so anything that was existing in that room that would have been dangerous was padded up,” Smith said. “It was well thought out and well designed.” For the first time since 2009, Notre Dame High School’s

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om TrentonMonitorg.c for ongoin sports coverage every Friday riter from sports w er sh Fi Rich

The newly-resurfaced track at Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, will help guard against athletes’ injuries. Courtesy photo

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21-year-old track has received a facelift with the installation of a Beynon Sports BSS-300 Conversion (Seal +5mm Embedded) IAAF Certified Red Polyurethane Synthetic Track Surface, including striping of the Lawrenceville-based track. “This resurfacing is thicker than the last one so it’s much better on the athletes’ legs, which in turn hopefully means less injuries,” Irish track and field coach Joe McLaughlin said. “The kids are very excited about the new surface and hopefully it will last another 10 years.” McLaughlin hopes to show off the new track with a November reunion that will feature the return of athletes from as far back as the 1980s who ran for Tony Genovesi and the late Joe Wroblewski, for whom the track is named. “Our president, Ken Jennings, has been awesome in getting things up to par around the campus and keeping us competitive with all the other schools,” McLaughlin said. St. Rose High School, Belmar, received a donation from Jersey Mike’s hoagie shop to construct a new, permanent scoreboard on the varsity soccer/boys’ lacrosse field at the athletic complex in Wall Township. Prior to that, the complex had to rely upon a small, portable scoreboard. “Thanks to the generosity of Jersey Mike’s, we were able to purchase and install a brand new Nevco solar  “Safety was a big powered scoreboard with remote control concern ... [the room] technology,” athletic director Dennis Carey was well thought out said. “It is a big leap forand well designed.” ward for our complex, and we look forward to working towards adding a second scoreboard for our girls lacrosse/field hockey field as well and continuing to improve what is already an award-winning grass sports complex.” The school also welcomes Belmar native and Christian Brothers Academy graduate Brian Lynch as the new boys basketball coach; a 2000 graduate of Villanova University, Villanova, Pa., Lynch grew up attending St. Rose Parish, and spent the last two decades playing and coaching basketball in various countries overseas, where he honed a modern, high-paced aggressive style at both ends of the court. “We’ll evolve over time,” Lynch said of the planned coaching changes. “A lot of times we forget kids have room to grow and to be challenged. So, my philosophy has always been to challenge them, and see if they can do it first.” Other updates in Catholic schools include installation of a new turf for Red Bank Catholic High School’s all-purpose field at Count Basie Park, which hosts the football, boys and girls soccer, field hockey and lacrosse teams. “It’s the first time we’re getting this done in 11 years,” said associate athletic director Buddy Hausmann, who hopes the turf will be finished by Sept. 7. New netting will be installed behind both lacrosse goals, allowing safer space for the track team running on the surrounding track. “Before, the track team either got the boot, or had to

wait until the lacrosse team was done,” Hausmann said. “Now they can practice at any time.” In Lincroft, Christian Brothers Academy’s “Forever CBA” fundraising campaign has raised more than $11.6 million toward its $14 million goal. The funding is focused on campus facilities and school endowment, including several athletic projects – the relocation of soccer and lacrosse fields to the front of campus, with artificial turf, accessible spectator bleachers, a new scoreboard and sound system; the new Sheehan Track & Field Complex with eight-lane track, natural grass infield and updated tech amenities; a replacement indoor practice facility for track and field and expanded tennis courts.

A crane lifts the new solar-powered scoreboard into place at the Wall Township athletic complex for St. Rose High School, Belmar. Courtesy photo

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BACK to SCHOOL

Parish, community support benefits school upgrade projects BY CHRISTINA LESLIE  Correspondent

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atholic schools of the Diocese of Trenton are employing varied ways to ensure their students have access to the most innovative technology and best maintained facilities to aid their education this year. Two elementary Catholic schools, Sacred Heart in Mount Holly, and St. Mary, Middletown, have benefitted from unique fundraising campaigns to put their students well along the path of technology-sound practices. Sacred Heart School was able to shift gears in their fundraising efforts as they became one of this year’s beneficiaries of the town’s annual Spellbound Century Bike Ride. More than 1,400 cyclists hailing from 16 states pedaled 20, 45, 63 or 100 miles through the countryside July 30 to raise monies intended both for Sacred Heart School and the Rancocas Nature Center, Westhampton. Sacred Heart School principal Kathryn Jensen recalled, “It was fantastic to see the kind of support we had at this event from our school and parish,” sharing that members of the Knights of Columbus directed traffic, teachers and PTA members aided her in making sandwiches and registering participants, and “between teachers, parents, students and parishioners, we probably had  “It was about 40 volunteers.” fantastic to The event raised approximately $57,000 for the two benefitting see the kind entities; Sacred Heart School of support we anticipates a donation of between $25,000 and $27,000 for use in had ... from updating technology in the classrooms with new Promethean smart our school and boards. Jensen expressed joy at the town-wide event which benefitted parish.” the Catholic grammar school. “It was always special to see so many people come through and appreciate Mount Holly, but this year, to see riders and committee members work hard and appreciate our school

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 A Sacred Heart School family helps out during the Spellbound Century Bike Ride held in early August. The school was a recipient of the annual fundraising event. Courtesy photo  A newly refurbished classroom in St. Mary School, Middletown, is ready to welcome students to the new school year. Courtesy photo was really something I’ll never forget,” she said. Middletown’s St. Mary School is in the midst of their “Building Together: Our Family, Our Faith, Our Future” campaign, which to date has raised nearly $192,000. “The campaign was designed to support the building renovations and upgrades and provide continuity in regard to technology by standardizing what each classroom has,” explained Craig Palmer, principal. “The 68-year-old structure needed internal improvements such as a fresh coat of paint, new lighting, carpeted floors replaced with tile and technology upgrades.” A committee of 14 parish staff, parents and alumni launched the campaign this past June. A possible donor list of 100 parishioners, local businesses and alumni attended an evening kick-off, complete with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, which featured a video presentation by Father Jeffrey Kegley, St. Mary pastor, and an explanation of campaign goals by Palmer. Palmer noted that the campaign was promoted digitally to current student families and their friends, as well as on the school website in order that the entire community might feel invested in the Continued on 65


Schools to add religious assessment test this year EMMALEE ITALIA  Contributing Editor

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oping to better determine knowledge of the Catholic faith among students, the Diocese of Trenton will return to using the ACRE religious education assessment in diocesan Catholic schools for the upcoming academic year. The decision comes after a pre-pandemic review of the Assessment of Religious Knowledge (ARK) test, as well as ACRE – Assessment of Child/Youth Religious Education – which had been used in the Diocese previously. After a pause during the remote learning of spring 2020, discussions resumed between Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, and Daniel O’Connell, associate director for curriculum and instruction. “The decision was made to have [school] groups pilot both ARK and ACRE assessments to select the one best suited for the Diocese,” O’Connell explained. “In the spring of 2021, three elementary schools and one high school piloted the ARK from

the Sophia Institute, and one high school piloted the ACRE from the National Catholic Educators Association.” Grades five, seven and 11 were assessed. Principals and technology specialists from the pilot schools met in July with O’Connell and director of catechesis Denise Contino to discuss the results. ACRE was ultimately chosen for a number of reasons, O’Connell noted. “[It has] an easy to access digital platform, immediate results, clear and direct questions and results that were easy to maneuver and interpret,” he said. Starting with the 2021-2022 school year, grades five, eight and 11 will take the assessments. The idea is for all Catholic elementary and high schools to base their curriculum on Continued on 65

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BACK to SCHOOL

New program a ‘game changer’ for Catholic schools BY ROSE O’CONNOR  Associate Editor

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his really is amazing, it’ll be a game changer for our schools,” said Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt, diocesan superintendent for Catholic schools, describing Imagine Learning, an online K-8 supplemental program that will be piloted in 21 elementary schools this year in the Diocese of Trenton. As Dr. Schmidt explained, “The purpose for Imagine Learning is to provide both enrichment and remediation in Math and Language Arts. This is all about personalized learning. With Imagine Learning, students can work at their own pace. This will allow for differentiation of instruction and help our schools to reach each student exactly where they are.” Students will take an initial placement test which creates a baseline score. From this baseline, targeted lessons and instruction are created unique to each child. The assessments and lessons are engaging and grade-level

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A student works independently online in this file photo. This year, 21 of the elementary schools in the Diocese will pilot Imagine Learning, an online a K-8 program that allows for individualized instruction. Dan O’Connell photo

appropriate and are designed to also support students who speak English as a second language. Teachers who will be using the program this year will receive training in Imagine Learning this month and can begin to implement the learning tool into their classrooms in a number of different ways. “The teachers can really use it however they want to – they can use it in the classroom with small groups or with the whole  “This is class. It can also be assigned for homework,” Dr. Schmidt said. all about The program also provides personalized online assistance from a live and certified teacher. learning.” If students are struggling with a problem and are not arriving at the correct answer, instructional “hints” will be offered. If the hints are not helpful, avatars – unique cartoon characters – will also provide assistance and once an incorrect answer is given three times, a teacher will arrive online and guide the students to completing the problem correctly. While Imagine Learning will benefit the students individually, it also provides an invaluable resource to the teachers, including reports of students’ progress. The data will assist teachers in determining which of their learning goals have been met and what content areas may need reinforcing. “It’s 100 percent data-driven,” Dr. Schmidt offered, noting the success the implementation of Imagine Learning brought to the schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit where he previously served as associate superintendent of Catholic schools. “It changed the whole educational paradigm. So, when I had the opportunity to bring it here, I jumped at the chance. It really is such a great tool and I am thrilled that the Diocese is able to participate in using it,” he said.


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These sisters from St. Ann School, Lawrence, arrive well-prepared on the first day of school Sept. 1. Photo from St. Ann School Facebook page.

These students from Holy Cross Academy are ready for their 8th grade year. The Rumson school began the 2021-2022 school year Sept. 1. Photo from Holy Cross Academy Facebook page.

St. Peter School, Point Pleasant Beach, is prepared to welcome back staff and students on Sept. 7 with a colorful display.

Photo from St. Peter School Facebook page.

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