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Reaching new heights at NCCS

Summer efforts prepare students for new year

With the help of Phil Binkiwitz and the BECC Electric crew, volunteers worked diligently to prepare NCCS for full-time in-person learning this fall. The crew consisted of head custodian Chuck Noto and volunteers John Fitzgerald, Dick Grace, Rich Hofer, Charlie LaDuca, and Roger Pacos.

For a close-knit family like Northern Chautauqua Catholic School, the closure of school due to COVID-19 was especially tough. While the beautiful brick building on Fourth and Washington streets was quiet during the final months of last school year, this summer it was a hub of activity, as students, teachers and staff prepared for a school year like no other.

Thanks to leftover funding from the AIS program, NCCS was able to host a summer study camp to help students regain their footing in core subjects and become accustomed to new COVID-19 procedures.

During the month of July, NCCS opened its doors from 9 a.m. to noon, four days a week, to students in grades PreK through eight. As they learned, students practiced social distancing, including wearing masks and frequent hand-washing/sanitizing.

Principal Andy Ludwig said, “Summer study camp was a great opportunity for students to complete unfinished remote assignments and sharpen skills. It also allowed students to reacclimate with school and practice safety protocols in a non-threatening setting.”

The summer camp also helped students develop the social and emotional skills needed to navigate the new school, as a social worker funded by Catholic Charities of Western New York, worked with students in all grade levels.

During the month of July, NCCS hosted a summer camp for students to work on their math, ELA, and social-emotional skills in preparation for the new school year.

“Ms. Carol gave our students outstanding instruction that included coping skills to help them deal with the stresses of life in a pandemic and life in general,” said Ludwig.

Teachers, too, benefited from the experience, as they were able to work through pandemic teaching strategies.

Prep school ELA teacher Peter Howard noted, “The general sentiment among kids was that they didn’t know what they had until it was gone, and they were glad to have it back!”

During the ELA portion of summer camp, Howard’s students created a magazine called “The Monarch Chronicle,” which he hopes to continue this school year.

“Students wrote a variety of stories, including pop culture reviews, science and technology advancements, human interest pieces, poetry and flash fiction,” said Howard, whose by-line has often appeared in area news publications over the years.

Prep school math teacher Karen Nalepa helped students brush up on their math skills, while in the lower grades, students received support from second grade teacher Linda Valone and fourth grade teacher Candice Lopez. Valone noticed that after four months away from school, students seemed to benefit significantly from the summer camp experience.

Valone worked with PreK through fourth grade on wearing masks properly and regular hand washing. Her students also enjoyed circle time, story time and practicing their writing skills. Overall, “Students seemed really excited to be back,” said Valone. “So many of them kept saying, ‘I love it here! I missed it!'”

Head custodian Chuck Noto is no stranger to NCCS, as he was a student at the school when it was St. Mary’s Catholic School. He and a group of volunteers have spent the summer setting up classrooms for social distancing, painting stairways and landings, repainting teachers’ classrooms and doing repair work in the gymnasium.

Ludwig and NCCS’ faculty and staff were thrilled to open the building last week for parents to drop off school supplies at staggered intervals over the course of two days. The school is one of few in the county that is opening for in-person instruction this fall, and Ludwig is pleased that summer camp helped ease the transition for teachers and students.

“The social-emotional learning and the content instruction that students received will benefit them well beyond the time of this pandemic,” said Ludwig. “Our wonderful faculty and staff’s work will benefit our children for the rest of their lives.”

To learn more about NCCS, visit www.nccschool.us or call 366-0630.

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