The school building is empty, the classrooms are quiet, the usual aroma of fresh baked cookies in the cafeteria is noticeably absent and the playground is not full of students jumping rope or playing basketball. Students, however, are still learning.

In spite of the building's temporary closing due to statewide restrictions as a result of COVID-19, learning continues, community-service projects remain a mainstay and social interactions between students and teachers continue.

There is still language arts, math and science being taught in a new remote way, but the most important lesson children are getting is that Holy Trinity School is more than just a building. They are learning that Holy Trinity School is a thriving and close-knit community of interconnected students, teachers and families, even when they’re not under one roof. 

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Through a combination of Google Classroom assignments, recorded video lessons and Zoom meetings, students are receiving a full work load every day to keep up with learning. In an email from Principal Dr. Adele Ellis, students were notified that they are expected to be up and ready for each school day, will be counted as in attendance or absent and held responsible for completing assignments as they are due. This includes not only attending daily Zoom meetings but also being dressed appropriately for a school day. Dr. Ellis made it clear that school uniforms are not required but showing up to class via Zoom wearing pajamas would not be tolerated.

As always, the center of Catholic school is not only prayer but also the tradition of service to others. This tenet is even more important in a time of need.

Holy Trinity School parent Annemarie Tomkins heard of the shortage of sandwiches at St. Joseph Service Center in Elizabeth. Mrs. Tomkins reached out to the school community asking for assistance in making sandwiches and offered to drive the donations over to St. Joseph. Holy Trinity Families jumped into action and now run a weekly sandwich drive for those in need. 

Eighth-grade student Conleth Gorham and his family have been involved with the sandwich ministry at St. Joseph for the past 10 years. Prior to the school closing, Conleth had arranged a date to prepare sandwiches after school with his classmates, as part of an eighth-grade service project. Many of the students were interested in donating their time and supplies.

When everything changed, Conleth redirected his efforts to see how they could still supply what was needed. St. Joseph’s suggested he could think about what kids would need to eat. And last week, with the help of his mother, Briege Lennon, a minivan fully packed with much-needed breakfast options, including cereal, granola bars and fresh fruit, arrived at the center.

On a local level, some of the eighth-graders and younger students enjoy walking to Outta Hand Pizza on the usual monthly half day of school. Many Holy Trinity School families had been enjoying Outta Hand’s Make Your Own Pizza kits in their own homes. Conleth and his family initiated a collection among Holy Trinity eighth-grade families and asked Outta Hand to donate 25 kits to children in need locally.

Outta Hand is liaising with the Rotary Club to identify families in need. Other Holy Trinity School families heard about this and have called Burim Regjaj, owner of Outta Hand, to fund more pizzas for local frontline medical workers. The kids’ efforts both helped those working to treat the sick and supported an important, much-loved Westfield business during a trying time.  

Another eighth grader, Josie Allen, suggested that students send thank-you cards or thinking-of-you messages to medical workers, houses of worship and nursing homes. Even the youngest learners took part, with the Pre-K 3 class taking time at home to make cards for Sunrise Assistant Living in Clark. 

At the heart of Holy Trinity School is the meaningful social interactions between students, teachers and staff. Principal Dr. Ellis continues weekly birthday announcements, bi-weekly newsletters and many videos addressing the students directly.

Along with Dr. Ellis, teachers, Holy Trinity Church Pastor Fr. Anthony Randazzo and the eighth graders have been producing weekly videos to raise morale among all the students. Seen as role models for the younger students, eighth graders have truly stepped up to portray positive spirits in videos that have them telling jokes or fun facts specifically geared to the young students. Most recently, the eighth graders surprised the school community with a heartfelt video thanking their teachers, staff, clergy and principal for all their hard work during this difficult time.

Dr. Ellis continues her tireless efforts to keep the school running and appreciates the effort from the school community

“Holy Trinity families and staff not only seamlessly continued academics, they found ways to practice kindness and compassion for others,” she said. “Through making cards, sandwiches, and videos to keep up everyone’s spirits and help those in need, they’re ensuring we all stay connected.”

Dr. Ellis’ actions also show the importance of maintaining the school community despite physical distance. A few students got quite a surprise this week when their doorbells rang and none other than their principal presented them with books forgotten in the quick shuffle to vacate school. 

Registration for the 2020-2021 year is still ongoing. Virtual tours are currently available. Come take a virtual tour, see the campus and find out more. Registration for the 2020-21 academic year is open for students in Pre-K 2s through Eighth grade. Space is available but limited including The Holy Trinity School Early Learning Center Pre-K 2s through Kindergarten located in Westfield. Please contact Dr. Adele Ellis at 908-233-0484 for more information or a virtual tour. Contact us and see what a modern catholic education has to offer.

Since 1916, Holy Trinity School has provided a quality Catholic education to Westfield and the surrounding communities. A 2011 National Blue Ribbon and a Middle States accredited school, its mission is to educate students to actualize their full, individual potential, both spiritually and academically. Holy Trinity School is currently accepting students at all grade levels for the 2020-2021 school year, including middle school. Holy Trinity School, preparing our future now. www.holytrinityschool.org.