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May 5, 2020

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

May 5, 2020

Dear Parents,

As I am sure you are all aware, Governor Murphy announced that all schools in New Jersey will remain closed for the balance of this school year.  As a result we will continue remote learning through the remainder of the year. 

In light of the current situation and the uncertainty surrounding what schools will look like to start of the 2020-2021 school year, I have informed Fr. Remo and Acting Superintendent, Barbara Dolan that I will not retire on June 30th as planned.  I will continue to work through the summer and into the fall to insure as much continuity for our students and staff as possible. 

Congratulations to eighth grader, Joshua Dayo, and seventh graders, Juliette Vergara and Adelle Tanini for earning $500 college scholarships from The National Junior Honor Society!  All three of these students are members of our school’s chapter of the NJHS and the scholarship program is for students from all over the country.  This would be an amazing accomplishment if one of our students were recognized.  Having three students honored is beyond outstanding!  Congratulations again!

Each year we build three snow days into the school calendar.  This year, none of those days were used.  In addition, there will be no Archdiocesan Professional Development Day for teachers on Friday, May 8th so that day will be a school day.  As a result, the official last day of school for all students, PK through grade 8, will be Thursday, June 11th.   We will honor Memorial Day as planned, with no school sessions on Friday, May 22nd, or Monday, May 25th

Progress Reports for students in grades K-8 have been mailed out.  We will make a determination as to how report cards will be distributed in the weeks ahead.   We will also schedule days and times in June for parents to return textbooks to the school.  We must be able to inventory all books to be able to place orders for additional books if needed for next year’s classes.

There will be no final exams in grades 6-8 and MAP Growth Testing will resume in the fall.

I met virtually with our eighth grade parents last week and discussed possible options to recognize our graduates.  When those plans are fleshed out, I will share them with you.  Sadly, our graduates have missed out on a wide array of special events to mark this important milestone year, so please keep our amazing eighth graders and their parents in your prayers.  

At the virtual HSA meeting last week I said that all money paid for March lunch orders that were not filled would be refunded.   I also told the class mothers that all monies paid for field trips would likewise be refunded.  After the meeting several parents indicated that they wanted to donate their refunds to the school to help us recoup some of our lost revenue from lunch sales and Before Care and After Care.  Thank you to those individuals and to anyone else who would like to do the same.   The refunds will go out in the weeks ahead when we start bringing office and cafeteria staff in on a limited basis. 

I also indicated that several ceremonies that had to be cancelled would be scheduled in the fall if possible.  They include, the National Junior Honor Society Induction Ceremony, the May Crowning Mass, the visiting farm and the Sports Assembly Program.  Students who have earned or will earn First and Second Honors in the second and third trimesters this year will be recognized at the first program next year.  Some programs, like the PreK and Kindergarten moving up ceremonies and the art show will not be rescheduled.   

Likewise, the HSA sponsored 5K Race, scheduled for June 6th, and has been canceled.

We are exploring options for reopening school with mandated social distancing requirements.  The two options available, should we be able to return, will require the limiting of the number of students in each classroom at one time, the wearing of face masks by students and staff members and strict hygiene requirements.  With that being the case, each of our typical classes will require two classrooms.  The two options are:

      1. AM and PM Sessions with ½ of the classes attending the morning session, from 8:00AM to 12:00PM and the other half attending from 1:00 to 5:00PM.  There would be no remote learning with this plan.  No student will have lunch in school.  The gym will be used for at least two classrooms, so if we are allowed to have gym classes they will be in the park or            the courtyard (1/2 of the class at a time).  We will not have the capability for Aftercare for the AM session, (no rooms for it to be housed) but we may be able to provide this service for the PM session- for one hour per day.

  1. Each class would attend full days of school two days per week and a third day on alternating weeks with remote learning from home on the days not in school.  Lunch would be in the classrooms.  The possibility of Before Care and After Care on the days students are in school may be possible. 

Both scenarios will require the sharing of rooms and a robust cleaning protocol between sessions.   Both options have their flaws, particularly for families with multiple children.  Neither scenario will insure that all children from one family will have the same schedule.  The only scenario that insures that siblings will be in the same place at all times will be if we are unable to return to school and remote learning continues for all students.

Should we not be able to return to the school building in September, the teachers will provide remote learning for their students.  Over the summer months, we will explore best practices and provide training to help teachers enhance the remote learning programs they have developed.  Moving forward this year, teachers will include more direct, interactive learning activities for their students, utilizing programs and applications like Zoom and Google Meet.  Thank you for your patience as we navigate these uncharted waters.

Thank you to everyone who took part in our virtual book fair and in advance for those who will take part in our Virtual Spring Gala.  Thanks to Cara Guerra, the event chairperson, who came up with this plan.  With help from Jenn Araneo, Donna Murphy and the other HSA officers we are all looking forward to spending time together-from our homes to help support our school!  A letter from Cara about the Gala

The roof project is progressing nicely with more than one third of the roof replaced.  A few more days of nice weather and the project will be completed.

The quotes for the strobe light alert system and the safety glass installation have been submitted under the security grant program to the Hoboken BOE.  We will purchase several laser thermometers to use as children and visitors enter the building as well as PPE for staff and disposal receptacles utilizing this year’s funds.  I will entertain proposals to install temperature scanners at our entry doors, utilizing next year’s security grant funds should we choose to go that route.

Finally, I want to put the current educational situation into perspective for you.  When I first came to HCA it was the summer following the school being closed after the devastation caused by Super Storm Sandy and the subsequent oil spill.  Many of our families still at HCA lived through that year and could attest to the difficulties the students and teachers faced and the disruption to the instructional program it created, far better than I can.  The kids were out of school entirely for the better part of a month.   There was no remote learning.  When they finally did return it was to two locations, PreK to the upper level of the gym at Mustard Seed School and K-8 to St. Nicholas School in Jersey City.  Classes were squeezed into any spot they could find.  The teachers had no Smart Boards, no computers and in many instances shared their teaching space with another teacher and her class.  Our current eighth graders were in the second grade that year.  I tell you this to remind you that these students, most of whom were here for the Sandy year, earned close to $1,000,000 in scholarships and gained acceptances to the finest high schools in the area.  Our program is strong, our teachers are excellent and all of you are dedicated to your children’s success.  As difficult as this is, the current situation will pass.  Our children are resilient and they will come out of this well.  Together, we will make that a reality.

God bless you all.

Sincerely,

Matthew McGrath

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