Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information

We have collated all of the important school-wide Coronavirus information below.  Helpful local, state and national links are also provided.

Expand Content
Video Message from Dr. Cheeseman, Superintendent of the DIocese of Bridgeport Schools (5.6.2020)

Good Afternoon SMS Families and Staff,

Here is a video message from our superintendent of schools, pertaining to the announcement made by Governor Lamont yesterday with regards to school closures for this school year.

https://youtu.be/BWrhW8Wwopg

Expand Content
Update from Mrs. O'Rourke about May 8 (5.5.2020)

Good Afternoon,

Friday is a day of school for us, albeit distance learning!  My apologies for not announcing this sooner, I think I mentioned it in most of my zooms with families.  

I know that many of you have seen the news that Governor Lamont announced that we will not be returning to our school buildings for this school year.  I am waiting for an official communication from the Diocese on this.

Blessings, peace, and wellness,

Anna

Expand Content
K-5 Specials (4.23.2020)

Dear Grades K - 5 SMS Families,

As we come to the close of week 5 of distance learning and have entered the fourth quarter, we have made some adjustments to expectations for your students’ participation in specials classes.  

When we began distance learning, the focus was on the core subjects.  After realizing that this new learning environment would be continuing for more than the initial two weeks, the specials teachers began preparing activities and assignments.  Specials are an important part of our students’ school experience.  These classes serve an important role in the development of gross and fine motor skills, problem-solving, being imaginative and inventive and developing sportsmanship.  They build cooperative skills, confidence, creativity, and vocabulary, all of which are important to boost development and strengthen skills that are needed in academic and social settings.

We are making changes for the fourth quarter.  The fourth quarter grade will be based on participation, which may mean sending in an assignment to the teacher, videoing/photographing an activity to submit to the teacher, or something otherwise specified by the teacher.  The assignments can be found in Google Classrooms for Art and Music and will be sent by email for Physical Education and World Language.  Most of the assignments are weekly or bi-weekly.  These are great activities to distribute throughout your child’s day to break up academic work.  If you find this burdensome throughout the week, use them as weekend activities.  

Here is how the grading will work:

Kindergarten:  They do not get grades for Specials, but we do hope that they use some of the special’s activities/assignments to expand their experiences.

Grades 1 - 5:     *Satisfactory = S

                        *Unsatisfactory = U

         *Based on participation, which is submitting the assignment/activity.

My decision to structure specials classes in this manner was based on my confidence in the effectiveness in these types of lessons and my concern for the amount of screen time we are imposing on our students. The specials teachers will be dropping in on zoom conferences with homeroom teachers in order to check in with students.  Ms. Giorgio, Mrs. Harris, Mrs. Mitchell, and Coach T miss your students immensely.  

Should you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to the specials teachers directly:

Music:    giorgioe@smsridgefield.org

Art:     harrisj@smsridgefield.org

World Language: mitchelly@smsridgefield.org

PE:   munozt@smsridgefield.org

Blessings, peace, & wellness, 

Anna

Expand Content
New Middle School Distance Learning Schedule (4.17.2020)

Dear 6th, 7th, and 8th Grade Families,

I hope that this communication finds you and your family well and safe!  

As we conclude our Spring break, I would like to share with you new schedules for your children.  Today we met with each homeroom class to explain the new schedule to them and allow them to ask questions.  We apologize that some students had not received the email notification, but were able to accommodate those students by adding additional Zoom meetings.  We really wanted to communicate the schedules to the students first, then offer you all the information in this email. It was wonderful to see and hear the kids today!

Why are we making changes?

So much has changed since March 12th when we announced our distance learning.  With the most recent decision to keep schools closed until at least May 20th, we are facing a longer period away than we could have originally imagined.  This extended timeframe has caused us to rethink and refine how we are meeting the needs of our students. Additional factors that have influenced our thinking include: 

  • A host of webinars and professional development opportunities offered through the Diocesean Office for Education

  • Discussions with the Middle School team in our weekly PLC’s (professional learning communities) regarding what’s working, what’s not working, new ideas, and student observations

  • Parent feedback from many of you shared with me, Mrs. Manno, and our teachers

  • Survey results from your middle school students.  Mrs. Manno surveyed them just before Spring break and asked questions about what was working, what was not, how many hours were they spending on work, etc.  

What are our goals?

Our overarching goal is to provide your students with the opportunity to complete their major curricular goals in an engaging, supportive way as long as we are in a distance learning model.  We believe this new schedule provides students:

  • A predictable daily schedule

  • Daily interaction via Zoom with teachers and peers

  • A balance of screen time and independent work each day

  • The opportunity to manage to deadlines

  • Flexibility to schedule themselves for art and music assignments

What are the highlights of the plan?

  • Students will have homeroom twice a week

  • Students will have live classes for each subject twice a week

  • Students will have no more than three live classes a day.  (On Mondays and Fridays they will have an additional homeroom session.)

  • Students will have approximately 3-3 ½ empty block time per day.  The expectation for students to work 20-30 minutes per class, totaling 1 ½ hours per day.  Projects and specials may add time to this.

  • We have scheduled office hours for one to one or small group help.  Students can reach out to teachers via email to set up a phone call, 1:1 zoom or small group zoom, according to their needs.  Teachers too, will be reaching out to students at this time if necessary. 

How can parents help? 

  • Ensure that your student attends the live classes, we are taking attendance and this is where they will get to learn new content.  

  • Please have your student name themselves on Zoom.  We have had boxes on zoom that just say iPhone. It is important for attendance and security that we know everyone that we are working with. 

  • You may need to assist your student to manage some of his/her time.  There will be assignments given after the live classes, but they will not be due until the next afternoon by 5 pm with the exception of projects and long term assignments. 

  • Encourage your students to take advantage of the office hours.

We are confident that this new plan will benefit our students.  As we go along, please feel free to share any feedback.

Blessings and peace,

Anna

Expand Content
Easter Message from the SMS Staff (4.10.2020)

Happy Good Friday,

Hope this email finds you well.  I wanted to share our Easter wishes with you from our teachers and staff.  

Please use this link to view a special Easter message.

May you all have a blessed Easter as we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior!

Anna

Expand Content
Letter from Steven F. Cheeseman, Superintendent of Schools, Diocese of Bridgeport- Closure Extension Until May 20th (4.9.2020)

Dear Parents,

I hope that this letter finds you and your family healthy and safe. Today, as we begin our commemoration of the Lord’s Passion and prepare to celebrate His Resurrection, we remember in a special way all those who have been afflicted by Covid-19 and those that are working tirelessly to care for them.

I write today to announce that, in keeping with Governor Lamont’s announcement, we will continue our distance learning program with the plan of returning to our school buildings on May 20, 2020. While we hold onto hope that we will be able to return then and share the closing weeks of the school year together, we continue to plan for the possibility that we may finish out the year remotely. As we continue in this alternative teaching/learning model, I again wish to express my deep gratitude for the teachers and school leaders who have worked so hard to ensure that quality education continues in our schools.

I also need to express my gratitude to the members of our diocesan team who have been working to implement this model. Around March 1st, I asked our Personalized Learning Team, led by Alan Barnicle and Stacy Clements, to start putting together a plan just in case we had to close school buildings for a short period of time. Within a week they created guidelines, resources and templates, and as the reality of the situation became clearer, we had each school submit their plan for distance learning. On March 16th our schools were able to transition almost all of the over 7000 students to a distance learning program – an amazing feat! Since then, the team has been meeting every day via zoom with groups of teachers and administrators and continues to facilitate the sharing of best practices, materials and resources. Additionally, they, along with our instructional coaches and our teacher leaders, have led over 100 professional development sessions and provide a virtual help desk for teachers and parents. As a result, our distance learning program gets better every day. As I have shared in previous letters, the most updated information can be found on a dedicated page on our website: https://www.dioceseofbridgeportcatholicschools.com/coronavirus-updates/.

Finally, I again want to express that we recognize the financial stress some families may be experiencing and we encourage you to work with your school principal should you need an extension on making tuition payments. In the meantime, we have suspended late fees charged through FACTS. Also, as we are in the height of new enrollment season, I encourage you to continue sharing pictures and positive messages on social media and ask that you share the good news about Catholic schools with friends and relatives. Even though our buildings are closed, school administrators are still working and would love to talk with potential new families.

As we look forward to the promise and hope of the Easter season, let us continue praying for our friends, our families and our school communities that all of us may Struly experience the joy given to us by the risen Christ.

Sincerely,

Dr. Steven F. Cheeseman

Superintendent of Schools

Expand Content
Video Check-in from Saint Mary School Principal Anna O'Rourke (4.1.2020)

Dear SMS Parents,

Please take a moment and watch this brief update from Mrs. O'Rourke, including more information about the upcoming Spring Break. It is about 4 minutes long, and is intended for parents, not students. Please note, Mrs. O'Rourke refers to a resources page available on the Parent Portal, but it is actually on the SMS Website. It will be expanded greatly prior to Spring Break.

Wishing you blessings, peace, and good health!

Amy Dowding

Director of Advancement - Saint Mary School

Expand Content
Video Check-in from Saint Mary School Principal Anna O'Rourke (3.27.2020)

Dear SMS Families,

As we conclude this second week of distance learning, please take a moment and watch this important video update from Mrs. O'Rourke.  Please note this message is for parents and guardians, not for our students.

We wish you blessings, peace, and health.

 

Amy Dowding

Director of Advancement - Saint Mary School

Expand Content
Letter from Steven F. Cheeseman, Superintendent of Schools, Diocese of Bridgeport- Extension Until April 20th and Spring Break Update (3.26.2020)

Dear Parents,

As we come to the end of week two of our distance learning, I continue to be amazed by all the creative and effective instruction that is happening throughout our diocesan school system. I am sure that you share my immense gratitude for our teachers who are working so hard to ensure your child continues to receive a quality Catholic education even though we cannot be in the traditional classroom. I am hopeful that this will be an opportunity for us to continue to strengthen the teacher-family partnership as we strive to provide an excellent educational experience for the approximately 7,500 students served by our schools.

Today, I write to inform you that we, in keeping with Governor Lamont’s directive to public schools, have moved our tentative return to school date from April 1st to April 20th. Additionally, we have decided to extend the Easter break. Hopefully, this will give everyone some down time to fully enjoy a prayerful Holy Week and a joyous Easter without the burden of assignments and due dates. Easter break will begin on Monday April 6th and will end with a return to school (whether virtually or in person) on April 20th. We are in the process of assembling a list of family activities for Holy Week and Easter along with some virtual field trips that families can enjoy together. These will be added next week to our Catholic schools resource page, https://www.dioceseofbridgeportcatholicschools.com/coronavirus-updates/. As a reminder, you can also find information regarding the virtual help desk for teachers and parents on that page.

Finally, to the parents of seniors, I want to assure you that regardless of the return to school date, we will do our best to hold a graduation ceremony that celebrates the accomplishments of your senior student. At this time, I cannot say if it will be on the date originally planned, but we will try our best to preserve some of the traditions your family has looked forward to.

As we move forward in these coming weeks, please accept my great gratitude for your continued patience and flexibility and let us keep praying for all those whose families are affected by this pandemic. May God bless you and may Our Lady continue to shower Her blessings on our Catholic school community.

Sincerely,

Dr. Steven F. Cheeseman

Superintendent of Schools Diocese of Bridgeport

Expand Content
Letter from Steven F. Cheeseman, Superintendent of Schools, Diocese of Bridgeport- Distance Learning Updates (3.20.2020)

Dear Parents,

As we wind down our first week of distance learning, I can’t help but be proud of the way in which this has been handled by administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Of course, the transition has not always been perfect and we still have some hiccups to deal with as we enter week two, but given the unprecedented nature and the speed with which we needed to transition, I can’t say enough about how grateful I am to our personalized learning team, our principals and, most especially, our teachers.

I also realize the additional stress this may have added at home, so I thank you as well for your flexibility and patience this past week as we implemented our remote learning plans. We will continue to support teachers and parents as we move into week two and remind you that we have established a virtual help desk for teachers and parents. We will do our best to provide technical and content help as well as answer general questions about best practices. We are also establishing discussion groups for parents who might want to share what they are doing to manage this situation at home. Information about these groups and links to helpful sites can be found on the dedicated webpage which can be found at https://www.dioceseofbridgeportcatholicschools.com/coronavirus-updates/.

Additionally, I want to assure you that we understand the financial stress some families may be experiencing and we encourage you to work with your school principal should you need an extension on making tuition payments. In the meantime, we have suspended late fees charged through FACTS. This suspension of fees will last, at least, until May 1st.

I know the burning question is “when can we return to normalcy” and I wish I could give you a definite answer. As of now, we are hoping to reopen April 1st but I think we all realize there is a good chance that this could be pushed out further as it already has been in some public school districts. I will send out a follow-up communication next week with an update.

As we are in the height of our new enrollment season, I encourage you to continue sharing pictures and positive messages on social media and ask that you share the good news about Catholic schools with friends and relatives. Even though our buildings are closed, school administrators are still working and would love to talk to potential new families.

Again, please accept my great gratitude for your continued patience and flexibility and let us keep praying for all those whose families are affected by this pandemic. May God bless you and may Our Lady continue to shower Her blessings on our Catholic school community.

Sincerely,

Dr. Steven F. Cheeseman

Superintendent of Schools

Expand Content
Video Check-in from Saint Mary School Principal Anna O'Rourke (3.17.2020)

Dear SMS Families,

Please take a moment to watch this video message from Mrs. O'Rourke together with your children!  

https://youtu.be/BHilsbvaBgY

We miss all of you!

Amy Dowding

Director of Advancement

Expand Content
Letter from Steven F. Cheeseman, Superintendent of Schools, Diocese of Bridgeport- Schools Closed Until 3.30.2020 (3.12.2020)

Dear Parents,

As indicated in previous communications, our schools have been preparing for the possibility of a prolonged closure of schools to prevent the continued spread of COVID-19. While we have, at this time, no information that anyone in our schools has tested positive for the virus, the possibility that they will come in contact with someone with the virus increases daily.

As such, All diocesan/diocesan sponsored Catholic elementary and high schools will close for students effective tomorrow, March 13th and will tentatively reopen on March 30th. Schools will begin implementing their distance learning instructional plan on Monday, March 16th.

Please note the following:

  • Teachers and staff will report based on the directives of their school administration
  • All school activities and trips are canceled until further notice Parents will receive information directly from the school as to how instruction will be provided
  • While we tentatively plan to reopen on March 30th, we will continue to monitor the situation with local and state health officials in order to reassess and determine our next steps
  • Saint Catherine Academy and the Adult Day Program at Saint Catherine Center will remain open. Any change to that status will be communicated to families directly from Saint Catherine Center. Questions regarding their status should be directed to Helen Burland at 203-540-5381 or info@stcatherineacademy.org

Let us continue to pray for all those whose lives have been touched by this or any other illness as we ask God’s blessing on our school community.

Sincerely,

Dr. Steven F. Cheeseman

Superintendent of Schools

Expand Content
Letter from Steven F. Cheeseman, Superintendent of Schools, Diocese of Bridgeport- Cleaning Protocols and Possible Closures (3.10.2020)

Dear Parents,

While we continue to review information from the CDC, the Connecticut State Department of Public Health and the health departments of the local townships in which our schools are located, we understand that you may have questions about the virus and its potential impact on your child’s health and education. In an effort to provide information, we have established a special page on our diocesan schools website to house information and bulletins that may be helpful to you. This page can be found at https://www.dioceseofbridgeportcatholicschools.com/coronavirus-updates/

Each of our school principals is working to ensure a safe and healthy environment and have been asked to increase cleaning and disinfecting protocols. They are also promoting healthy hygiene practices, encouraging hand washing, monitoring absenteeism, and communicating routinely with local officials and the Diocese. Also, while international travel is being suspended, canceled or postponed, all local field trips are being reviewed for risk and decisions are being made on a case by case basis.

As far as school closures, we will make decisions on a school by school basis in collaboration with, and based on the recommendations of, local and state health officials. In the meantime, we have provided principals with several options for teaching/learning plans to minimize disruption of the educational process. Given the complexities of a school system of more than 7000 students in over 20 schools that run from Bridgeport to Greenwich to Danbury, we have asked school leaders to choose a plan, whether it be high tech, low tech, or some combination, that best suits the needs of their community and to prepare for possible implementation.

Let us continue to ask God’s blessings on all those made ill by the coronavirus, those caring for them and those working to end its spread. May Our Lady watch over them and our entire school community.

Sincerely,

Steven F. Cheeseman

Superintendent of Schools

Expand Content
Letter from Saint Mary School Principal Anna O'Rourke - New Handwashing Procedures (3/5/2020)

Dear SMS Families and Staff,

We were notified today that this went out to the Ridgefield Public Schools and we too would like to enforce this at SMS.  

"Ed Briggs, Director of Public Health, has advised the district that students should wash their hands with soap and water before and after lunch. This practice may cut into instructional time, but should be done."

Additionally, I am asking that teachers allow students to wash their hands before snack.

Blessings and peace,

Anna

Expand Content
Letter from Steven F. Cheeseman, Superintendent of Schools, Diocese of Bridgeport- Clarification of March 2 letter (3.3.2020)

Dear Parents,

A recent letter from my office requires a clarification on the policy that was shared. The policy should have stated:

Effective March 2, 2020…

All students and personnel returning from international travel to a country identified by the CDC as a Level 3 Health Risk are required to get written medical clearance from their physician before returning to school. The written letter of clearance should indicate that no symptoms of infection by the Coronavirus are present and that they (or their parent) have been informed of possible symptoms that could present themselves.

The list of countries can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html and currently includes China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.

I apologize for any inconvenience or confusion that my earlier letter may have created.

Sincerely,

Steven F. Cheeseman

Superintendent of Schools

Expand Content
Letter from Steven F. Cheeseman, Superintendent of Schools, Diocese of Bridgeport - Preventative Measures (3.2.2020)

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We all have seen the rising concern surrounding the current outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). While the risk for transmission of COVID-19 at this time remains low, the Diocese of Bridgeport is taking the COVID-19 issue very seriously. I am writing to assure you that our schools are working in close collaboration with their local school health officials to take appropriate steps to reduce the risks to our community.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working hard to learn as much as possible about this new strand of the coronavirus so that we can better understand how it spreads and its associated illness. There are a small number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. and none in the State of Connecticut to date. We will continue to keep up with the information that is being provided by the CDC as well as state and local health departments.

In the meantime, the Office of the Superintendent has been making policy changes regarding travel outside of the United States. A policy modification went into effect on January 29, 2020, which stated anyone returning from mainland China from this point forward will not be permitted to return to their school for 14 days after re-entry.

Furthermore, effective March 2, 2020, for students and school personnel returning from international travel, the following policy change takes effect for Catholic schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport:

All students and school personnel returning from international travel are required to get written medical clearance from their physician before returning to school. This written medical clearance letter, signed and stamped by a licensed physician, must be submitted to the school administration.

In addition, out of an abundance of caution, all previously planned and approved school-sponsored trips outside of the United States are to be reviewed and reauthorized by the Office of the Superintendent and may be subject to cancellation. No additional school-sponsored trips outside of the United States should be planned until further notice.

In the event that a case of the Coronavirus is identified in Connecticut, we may take additional steps.

As always, we encourage all our school families of students, staff, and faculty to continue to practice good hygiene and healthy practices such as:

 Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or sleeve

 Wash your hands regularly

 Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth

 Avoid close contact with people who are sick

 Get your flu shot – it’s never too late

 Stay home if you’re feeling sick. If you’ve had a fever, stay home until you are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication.

We understand that keeping your child home when he/she is ill may be an inconvenience, however, it not only prevents the spread of illness in the school community but allows your child an opportunity to rest and recover.

We will continue to provide updates as we learn new information. Please contact your school nurse with any questions or concerns. You may also visit the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html

May God bless those whose lives have been touched by illness and those who work every day to find treatments and cures.

And may Our Lady shower our community with the blessings of Her protection.

Sincerely,

Steven F. Cheeseman

Superintendent of Schools

Expand Content
Letter from JeanAnn C. Paddyfote, Ph.D., Interim Superintendent of Schools, Ridgefield Preventative Measures (2.28.2020)

Dear Parents and Staff,

I am writing in response to the recent media briefing by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Connecticut Department of Public Health, and I want to assure you that we are staying updated on the Coronavirus status in Connecticut and our community. Our school district is following guidance from the Ridgefield Department of Public Health under the direction of Mr. Ed Briggs, the State of Connecticut Department of Public Health, and the CDC.

Coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19, is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person and is a specific virus in a large family of viruses. The CDC website has valuable information and can be accessed via this link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html As noted in the materials on the CDC website, there is currently no vaccine to prevent Coronavirus. The CDC recommends “everyday preventative actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases.” The CDC prevention measures include the following:

● Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

● Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

● Stay home when you are sick.

● Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

● Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

● CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19.

● Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

We continue to implement our seasonal influenza protocols in our schools. These protocols follow the CDC Guidelines for Cleaning and Disinfecting Schools. In addition, our bus contractor, First Student, is implementing similar protocols to clean buses.

If a student or employee is not feeling well and is experiencing flu-like symptoms, call your doctor. Parents be sure to reach out to your child’s school nurse should you have concerns about your child’s health, or to communicate an absence due to illness. If your child is sick, the best advice is to keep your child home. Employees should report their illness to a supervisor.

We will continue to work collaboratively with the Ridgefield Department of Public Health, and the First Selectmen’s Office to ensure we are sharing consistent information with families, employees and community members. We will provide updates as necessary.

If you have any questions, please contact the school nurse, or the district’s School Health Coordinator, Mr. Aaron Crook RN at acrook@ridgefieldps.net.

Sincerely,

JeanAnn C. Paddyfote, Ph.D.

Interim Superintendent of Schools