As a new principal, joining any school mid-year is difficult.
Such a change of leadership can be a confusing for everyone associated with the school and lead to a lot of uncertainty. But that’s especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic, where creating a personal environment where students and families can feel comfortable is imperative.
Fortunately for Cheshire’s St. Bridget Catholic School, Principal Nancy Testa, who began in her position a little over a month before classes let out for the summer in 2020, has made it her personal mission to keep families and students safe and connected throughout the pandemic.
“Since I started last May, it was a real challenge at first to add that personal touch and make sure all the families were familiar with who I was,” Testa explained. “It’s really important to me to make connections with the students outside of the traditional school day.”
Testa has made it her goal to greet every single family that comes to drop a student off in the morning—every morning—in order to enforce that relationship. Currently, St. Bridget has 300 students, with roughly 30 who are attending classes remotely, according to Testa.
“Since the pandemic started, I’ve restructured our entire morning routine,” she began. “I usually greet the students and their parents or families as they come in during the morning, and parents and buses all have to follow one direction in and one going out to follow proper social distancing guidelines.”
Since joining the St. Bridget’s family, Testa has had to change a majority of the daily routines that were common at the school, in order to accommodate for the CDC’s standards.
“We’ve totally redone the way we do Friday morning Mass,” she said. “We do it over our Smart Boards now, and have one class at a time actually help with the Mass while the others watch.”
Technology has played a large role at St. Bridget since the beginning of the pandemic, not unlike all other public and private schools in the area.
“We have a lot of one to one devices available for students to take with them to learn remotely if they have to quarantine or be out for an extended period of time,” she explained. “We also utilize Google classroom for our intermediate grade levels, and our lower classes have ClassDojo that they use to submit their assignments. It’s been a real learning experience for all of us but we’re getting into a routine and it’s been working for us!”
As far as yearly fundraisers go, Testa has had to think outside of the box in order to continue raising the funds necessary to keep the school running.
“All the traditional methods of fundraising have pretty much gone to the wayside right now,” she mentioned. “But we did have a fun Zoom fundraiser the other night where we all got dressed up and had a great time, it’s the little, smaller things that matter now.”
Most importantly, Testa has remained committed to the safety of her students, and she’s had a lot of help from her school nurse, Gabriella Connolly, in doing so.
“Gabriella has been so incredibly helpful to us during all of this,” she said. “She is on top of everything and is always so knowledgeable about what to do and when to do it, she’s been a great help to us throughout all of this.”