Walking toward John Paul II High School, one can already see the now-familiar signs requiring face masks and social distancing. Through the lobby door, health questions are answered, and temperatures are taken before entering the school.
Once inside, it feels like high school with an extra bit of anticipation. This day is beginning with a visit from the new superintendent of diocesan schools, Lytia Reese, and Bishop Luis Rafael Zarama.
Father James Magee, chaplain, concelebrates the annual Mass of the Holy Spirit with Bishop Luis. The senior class of 16 students attends the Mass while the rest of the student body watched via live stream in classrooms.
As he shares a homily, Bishop notes how difficult it must be to be a teenager in the pandemic.
“Jesus is the vaccine we need to become free, healthy and joyful,” he said. “Time in prayer is when something good can happen because you are being touched by love. Jesus is willing to be a part of your life to give you the freedom to find joy in your life.”
After Mass, the superintendent and bishop visited classrooms and answered questions from students, who first returned to JPII Aug. 19 on a flexible hybrid system.
“Students’ intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual well-being are best nurtured with in-person instruction. And the overwhelming majority of our students have indicated that they want to be back at school,” said principal Craig Conticchio.
Of 153 students, 23 families chose remote learning.
“Our teachers and students have very quickly adapted to learning in a hybrid environment where most students are six feet apart in the classroom and others are participating remotely,” said Doug Smith, director of admissions and marketing.
In a letter dated Sept. 1, Conticchio stated that, since opening, the school community has done well following protocols and procedures, and there have been no COVID-19 cases.
The principal announced that sports would resume, but, much like everything else in 2020, they will look different.
“While this school year will be like none other, we are excited that we are able to return to our school building to once again learn, pray and play together as safely as possible,” said Conticchio.