WINDSOR TERRACE — The Diocese of Brooklyn will fully reopen its Catholic academies and parish schools for in-person learning again this fall. The diocese will also provide parents the option of enrolling their children in online-only instruction for the 2021-22 school year through the new St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Online Academy (STACOA).
STACOA will be a new institution of the St. Thomas Aquinas Distance Learning Program — launched last September in response to the pandemic — and will be a separate entity from the “brick and mortar” schools.
Dr. Stephen Haessler, who was named principal of the distance learning program late last fall, will continue to serve as principal in the coming school year. He explained that families who enroll in the K-8 online academy will be “imbued in the Catholic perspective” while not “overburdening” students with too many Zoom sessions and screen time.
“We believe in formulating young learners in the Roman Catholic faith,” Haessler said, “and we want to be good partners and allies with parents who want that as well.”
STACOA will undergo a “systemic redoing,” according to Haessler — transitioning from a multiple sign-on experience to a single sign-on experience for both parents and students. This will be done through a partnership with Catholic Virtual, an international online learning organization that has an integrated learning management system in place with instructional resources available online.
STACOA will also be a New York State Board of Regents-recognized Catholic online academy and feature both live and asynchronous instruction.
“It’s not a revolving door [with students] coming in for a month or two and then going back [to a brick and mortar home academy],” Haessler further explained. “This will be a stable, enrollment-based Catholic grade school.”
Haessler said he remains inspired by the ongoing visions of Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, superintendent of school support services, and Msgr. David Cassato, vicar for Catholic schools.
“What’s really exciting is bringing a high-quality, high-caliber interactive Catholic experience for both parents and students,” Haessler added. “And the challenge of building a school from the ground up is really thrilling.”
The Diocese of Brooklyn is scheduled to begin the 2021-22 school year on Tuesday, Sept. 7.
On April 27, the Archdiocese of New York also announced its plans to reopen for five days a week, in-person instruction in the fall “as long as health directives from federal, state, and local county health agencies allow, and the community infection rate remains at appropriate levels.”
According to archdiocesan officials, this will eliminate the need for hybrid learning or remote classes next year.
“Since September, the Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York have been open for in-person instruction thanks to the unwavering partnership of our Health & Safety Task Force, parents, and students with our devoted pastors, principals, and teachers,” said Michael J. Deegan, Superintendent of Schools in the Archdiocese of New York.
“Your faithful commitment to our rigorous protocols has ensured the continued health and safety of our school communities,” he continued. “Our children have been learning and have been safe.”
Additional reporting by Melissa Enaje