On March 7, Saint Angela Merici School in Callao, Peru, reopened to in-person learning after TWO YEARS of being closed due to the pandemic.
The Ursuline Sisters of Louisville founded St. Angela Merici School in 1965, which currently serves students preK-high school. Sister Sue Scharfenberger, OSU, serves as the mission promoter at the school. The following is a reflection by Sister Sue on March 7, opening day.
Since December, we were all telling each other that when we return to school, things would be different. We were not just returning. We would be engaged in a listening and welcoming effort unlike any other. Our students, our families, and our faculty had lived through the pandemic, or better still, survived the pandemic.
Many lost parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, siblings. Many lost work and were challenged to redefine “providing for their families.”
And even for those who survived those losses, there was still the experience of isolation, separation, fear, boredom, uncertainty.
And we were not just returning to what had been. After two years of little more than Zoom contact, we were “returning” to something new and different. No hugs, no embraces, a distance of a meter between us, handwashing before entering the classroom, alcohol wipes at breaks. No, this was not a returning to, but a re-creating of something we had known.
But March 7 came, and at 7:30 a.m. doors were opened. Little by little, with the staggered scheduling of return, students entered the school grounds. Some were indistinguishable because of the masks, some because they were a lot taller, a little heavier, but the smile that was hidden by the mask was clearly visible in the eyes.
Parents waited outside until they could see their sons or daughters move out of sight and up the stairs to their classrooms. My heart beat faster and louder as I received their greetings, and their fist-to-fist “hello.” Parents waved from a distance. Teachers and staff personally welcomed each one and assisted with the handwashing.
There was a sense of “it is good to be back together,” even though all of us are aware that nothing is the same.
Teachers are still struggling with hybrid education. All of us are learning new routines. The challenges are still felt. But as many of the parents repeated to me, “Saint Angela is not just a school, it is a family.” And that remains “the same.”