Many Catholic schools have memorable start to year


PROVIDENCE — For many schools, preparing for the first day of classes can be a challenge. But for those families dealing with no running water, electricity, and facing blocked roads, helping their children get ready for school has been met with added frustration not only for parents, but for the diocesan school community.

As the Ocean State continues to clean up after Tropical Storm Irene, many schools in the Diocese of Providence decided to postpone classes until after Labor Day. According to the Diocesan Catholic School’s office many began the school year the last full week of August with high spirits but were forced to close without power the following Monday after the storm.

“Several lost power – some as many as three or four days, but, thank goodness, I have not heard from any of our schools that they suffered more than light damage,” said Superintendent Daniel Ferris. “The parents have been patient with changes to the schedules, and the faculties and staffs have made do, many leaving their homes without electricity to report to work. Over all the schools are off to a good if not memorable start.”

Roger Parent, Principal of St. Kevin School in Warwick, said that the storm presented many challenges for families.

“It wasn’t as bad as it could have been,” he said. “We had a lot of the families in Warwick who did not have power. We had hoped to open on Wednesday, but Tuesday afternoon we received numerous phone calls from families who had no power, no water, and couldn’t get the children ready for school.”

St. Kevin’s decided to follow Warwick school district’s lead and delay the start of the school year so that families could recover from the effects of Sunday’s storm.

“We wanted to make it a smooth start, but families were in distress,” he said. “As a school we were ready to start, but the families just couldn’t adjust with the situation the way it was.”

Jeffrey Megna began his first year as principal of St. Cecilia School in Pawtucket, without power until last Thursday morning.

“It just kind of taught me to roll with the punches,” he said. “It was a bit stressful, but we are all up and running. Most people understood the situation. It was out of our control.”

Very few Catholic Schools in Rhode Island were able to start the school year on time. Even after the devastating storm, it was business as usual at St. Pius X School in Westerly.

“Thankfully, we were able to start on schedule,” said Principal Henry Fiore. “We learned to be prepared. We took all the necessary precautions, and made sure our communications were up to date.”

Fiore explained that a few teachers were still without power, but reported a “very minimal” amount of storm-related absents on the first day.

“The only emails I received on the first day were positive and upbeat,” he said. “The parents have been wonderful, no complaints and no glitches. We are hopeful for a happy and successful year.”

Aside from the power outage experienced by all of Aquidneck Island, and some tree damage, Portsmouth Abbey was really no worse for the wear following Tropical Storm Irene.

“We have several back-up generators that were placed in various buildings around campus, including our dining hall, so there was very little interruption in the day-to-day running of the school,” said Assistant Director of Communications Kathy Stark. “School was not back in session yet when the storm hit, so it was a lot easier to deal with than if we had been without power and had about 250 boarding students on campus.”

With hazardous conditions a concern in parts of Kent County, Robert McDermott, principal at Father John V. Doyle School in Coventry, said that transportation was a significant factor in deciding to postpone.

“A large percentage of school is bussed,” he said. “Some of the roads were impassable with trees down and power lines down.”

Despite the setbacks, Father John V. Doyle School is looking forward to a successful school year.

“We are hoping to have an excellent year and push the kids as hard as we can academically,” said McDermott. “Parents and the town of Coventry have been very supportive.”