By Amy Kotlarz/Catholic Courier
CHARLOTTE — How do you combine items from three schools into one?
The answer, according to staff at the new Holy Cross School in Charlotte, is a bevy of volunteers, and lots of colored tape.
When items used in the classrooms at Our Mother of Sorrows in Greece and Cathedral School at Holy Rosary in Rochester were packed up for good at the end of the 2010-11 school year, they were put into cardboard boxes that were color-coded by grade level using colored tape, said Holy Cross Principal Kathleen Dougherty.
"It helped get things where they needed to be," said Dougherty, who previously was principal at Cathedral School at Holy Rosary. She said both schools had to be packed up by June 30, and the move-in dates for Holy Cross were July 12 and 13.
The tape was just one way that staff and volunteers have worked around the clock to prepare for opening day on Thursday, Sept. 8.
For instance, eight volunteers worked for four days straight to shelve more than 12,000 library books from the Mother of Sorrows and Cathedral School at Holy Rosary libraries. Fortunately for the volunteers, the computerized catalog system from Cathedral School at Holy Rosary was able to be transferred over intact.
Teachers, staff members and volunteers have spent part of July and August unpacking boxes and sorting and organizing items from the two schools as well as items left over from the former Holy Cross School, which closed in 2008. All those items had to be sorted and combined, with many extra desks, shelves and filing cabinets being put into storage.
While teachers worked in the day to set up their classrooms, volunteers went through the school’s infrastructure at night prior to the start of school. For instance, new plaster was needed to patch several leaks around windows, classrooms were painted, new electrical outlets were installed, and one volunteer removed the old slate blackboards in every classroom, which were blemished by tape and contact paper, and installed white boards. The slate boards have gone into storage, Dougherty said.
Most classrooms have had about four computers installed in them, and several digital white boards also have been installed as well.
Dougherty said Tom Veeder, the diocesan director of information technology, helped coordinate the move.
In addition to the physical process of moving and combining the schools, Dougherty said she has been mired in the logistics of starting a new school, ranging from creating parent and teacher handbooks to mapping out bus drop-off and pickup locations for the 25 buses expected to arrive at the school each day.
"As a new school, everything had to be redone," she said.
Additionally, enrollment has continued to pick up through the summer and now stands at 227 in kindergarten to sixth grade and 48 in preschool, said Father Thomas Wheeland, pastor of Holy Cross Church, which runs the school. The new school drew about 68 students out of a possible 77 from Cathedral School and about 122 out of a possible 167 from Our Mother of Sorrows. Father Wheeland noted that some of the Greece students opted to go to St. Lawrence School because it was closer to their homes. Holy Cross School also is welcoming 25 students from preschools and 12 from public schools.
The school now has two sections of preschool, two classes of kindergarten, and grades one, two, four and six. To staff those classes, the school has hired 13 teachers, including teachers from Our Mother of Sorrows and Cathedral School and two who had previously taught at Holy Cross.
The parish also has seen an uptick in donations from the community for the school, and has been able to fund three new scholarships, bringing it to a total of 10 scholarships that it offers students. Additionally, it is honoring the financial aid package that parents received in the past, Father Wheeland said.
"We’ve been able to do that because we do receive a subsidy from the Monroe County Catholic Schools Office to do that, and that’s been a great blessing," he said.
The school also will have some brand-new fitness equipment, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation to purchase 11 pieces of child-sized fitness equipment, including stair steppers, exercise bikes and redactors.
Proceeds from the parish gift shop are now also going to be earmarked for the school.
The parish plans to ask alumni to see if they will support the school with financial contributions to help ensure its stability in the future. Also, the parish is planning a special Mass in October to thank alumni and school supporters.
"Catholic schools are a very important part of the ministry of the church, and what we are doing is celebrating that," Father Wheeland said.
Teachers say they are excited for opening day, even as some were sad to see the schools they had taught at close.
"It is quite exciting," said Doreen Smith, a first-grade teacher who previously worked at Our Mother of Sorrows. "Everything happens for a reason, and it’s very exciting to be part of it."
Susan Pratt, who was recently hired to teach a second section of second grade, had taught at Holy Cross before it closed. Pratt said she is looking forward to being back in the classroom.
"It’s just trusting and giving that trust over to God," she said of how she handled her job search.
The volunteers who also are eagerly awaiting opening day include several alumni who assisted with the move. One of those alumni is David DiPonzio, 20, a 2009 graduate of Bishop Kearney High School and a 2005 graduate of Holy Cross. DiPonzio, who is studying electro-optics at Monroe Community College, said his grandfather and his mother went to school.
"Now we’re being part of getting it started back up, and that’s exciting," he said.