A project that was born out of the coronavirus shutdown a year and a half ago is just one of the changes that awaits students at St. Elizabeth School this year.
A history wall is on display in the main hallway on the second floor. It is a way to tell the story of St. Elizabeth School to those who have been in the parish their entire lives as well as to the wider student community, which comes from a wide array of feeder schools, said Caitlin Finkley, the school’s director of marketing and communications.
The wall consists of several plates suspended from the ceiling. The plates include photos and historical facts about the parish and school dating back to 1908. Finkley said the school leaned heavily on Kevin Scott, a lifelong parishioner and a graduate and longtime employee.
“He knows anything and everything about St. E’s. I kind of worked with him when the parish had its centennial Mass. He put a document together. We just kind of piggybacked on the information that he collected,” she said.
The idea for the wall began in March 2020. After students were sent home at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, school officials cleared the walls for cleaning and repainting. Finkley recalled talking to one of the new teachers about the history of St. Elizabeth, “which I take for granted because my family’s been involved in the school and the parish for a hundred years, and I went to school here.”
Work on the wall commenced soon after. St. Elizabeth president Joe Papili said its panels, in addition to telling the story of the school and parish, reflect the Benedictine charism of humility and service, and it honors the school’s commitment to pride, honor and tradition.
“It highlights some of the significant events from that time. It incorporates a walking history, so when kids come through, they can look at the wall, and they can start to see some things. It’s always good to know your roots. It’s always good to know what St. E’s is about,” he said.
Papili said the school hopes to integrate its history into its activities and programs.
“I think it’s going to be a very good conversational piece, but it’s also going to be an educational piece,” he said.
Finkley said the plates in the wall are interchangeable, so if students wanted to create something to highlight a group or project, “our kids and our teachers could take that inspiration and create something that they could showcase to the rest of the student body.”
Another physical change is the re-creation of the chapel at the former convent in a former classroom. Items such as the altar, pews, and parts of the wall of the chapel are in the process of being set up in the school. Asbestos has been removed from the former convent, which will be razed. Papili said the school hopes to build a multi-use facility on that site.
In addition to items from the chapel, multiple stained-glass windows were moved from the convent to the school, where they have been installed.
Thanks to the Class of 2021, work has begun on a senior lounge. The Class of 2018 began a tradition of raising money for a gift to the school, and last year’s senior class wanted to create a place for seniors to call their own, Papili said. It could be used for recreation, study or just a place to hang out, he said.
The Class of 2021 had some input into what would be in the lounge. They knew it wouldn’t be done in time for their own class, but they wanted to give something back, Papili said.
“It gives them an opportunity to come back and say, ‘Hey, we did something for you guys.’ It also will be something for underclassmen now to look and say, ‘What are we going to do?’”
Papili said he would like to have that done by open house in October. Planned work over the summer was stymied by an inability to find supplies.
St. Elizabeth School is planning to add several electives to its course offerings. Finkley said these include strength and conditioning, French, creative writing, leadership, forensics, public speaking, digital storytelling, photography and mobile app development. Papili added that the school is adding a creative writing center where students can get help with college essays and research papers, for example. He said it’s possible that students, through an elective, will be able to support another activity at St. Elizabeth.
“It gives you an option to expand your opportunities within the school. It also gives them an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, this may be a field that I never thought about,’” he said.
Finally, St. Elizabeth has named assistant principal Carlo Testa the interim principal. Testa is a 2002 graduate of the high school.