FALL RIVER – As the end of August draws near, Catholic schools in the Fall River Diocese are beginning to welcome students back; classes will resume in most schools before this year’s late Labor Day weekend.
Fall River Diocesan Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael S. Griffin says the year ahead looks bright for the 22 Catholic elementary and secondary schools in Southeastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod.
“I am looking forward to a wonderful new academic year for the Catholic schools of the diocese,” he shared recently.
“Our schools are ready for a new year, ready to continue building on our tradition of strong academic preparation in a faith-centered, values-oriented environment.”
He anticipates that overall enrollment will be similar to that of last year, which was just over 6,500 students.
A focus of all schools in the diocese for the upcoming year will be STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education with an emphasis on the engineering component. Workshops are planned for teachers by grade level to present strategies for the implementation of effective hands-on learning opportunities. This STEM focus includes plans to partner with the UMASS-Dartmouth Department of STEM Education and Teacher Development in its application for a National Science Foundation grant for the purpose of supporting and encouraging future STEM teachers.
This coming school year will see more and more elementary schools incorporating iPads and Chromebooks into the learning experience, expanding the use of technology beyond the computer lab and into the classroom.
To strengthen faith formation and religion programs, the ACRE Assessment (Assessment of Catechesis/Religious Education) will be used as a tool to measure student understanding of Church teachings. A committee has been assembled to review and update the Faith and Religion curriculum for diocesan schools, and the results of the assessment will provide important data for its task. The goal is a religious education/faith formation curriculum that will further engage students in understanding their faith and in integrating their faith in daily living.
In a related area, two high schools will be offering innovative programs designed to develop Christian leadership skills.
Also, the theme of mercy will receive special attention in myriad ways in liturgical and educational offerings over the year as Catholic schools respond to Pope Francis’ call for a Jubilee Year of Mercy, which is set to formally begin in December.
Students returning to Coyle and Cassidy High School and Middle School, Taunton, will find that the renovation of the biology lab in the Burns Science Center is now complete while those at Bishop Feehan High School, Attleboro, will see that work has begun in earnest on the new fitness and wellness center. At St. James-St. John School in New Bedford, a Pre-School program has been added to serve three- and four-year-olds.
Three schools in the Fall River Diocese have new principals: Matthew Bourque at St. Mary School, Mansfield; Jeanine Cambra, Espirito Santo School, Fall River; and Elyse Sackal, St. Mary School, Taunton.
Meanwhile, a veteran school leader in the diocese, Christopher Keavy, head of school at St. John Paul II High and St. Francis Xavier Prep in Hyannis, has been named to the New England Association of Schools and Colleges’ Commission on Independent Schools Board of Trustees. As a member of the commission, he will help oversee the accreditation of Catholic and other private schools in New England.
The new school year will mark significant anniversaries for two Fall River elementary schools. St. Stanislaus will observe its 110th anniversary and at St. Michael’s, its 85th anniversary.