St. Pius School Is Soaring Amidst the Challenges Caused by the Pandemic

When it looked like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic last spring would affect the current school year, St. Pius School Principal Paul Maestranzi and his staff immediately went to work on a comprehensive plan.

“We’re doing great,” said Maestranzi, a highly acclaimed educator and the school principal since 2000. “We started planning for our September opening last April because it looked pretty imminent that we were not going to be able to do the regular school procedure.”

Paul Maestranzi, St. Pius School Principal

Parents have responded with their support and gratitude for the professional, caring delivery of education by the St. Pius teachers and the meticulous approach to public safety that the school has demonstrated since it opened on Sept. 14. School enrollment is up 10 percent to 280 students (pre-K through grade 8) and that number would be greater if space allowed. The school has intentionally limited its enrollment in some classes due to social distancing guidelines. There have been minimal issues related to COVID-19 positive cases.

Maestranzi said the school initially looked at a two-platoon model (half of the students in morning classes and half of the students in afternoon classes) and modified its plan around that approach.

“The students have half a day of academics with their teachers and the other half of the day they have an academic assistant for classes in physical education, music and art,” said Maestranzi.

Students in groups of no more than 15 remain in their classrooms for academic instruction from individual teachers who rotate to the classrooms.

“The students do go out and enjoy a lot of fresh-airtime,” related Maestranzi. “The windows are open all the time so there’s fresh air coming in and out of the room. Everyone wears a mask. And there are  sanitizing protocols that they are following.”

St. Pius did institute a 14-day closure  (Jan. 4-Jan. 18) following the Christmas holiday vacation as a health precaution. “We went completely remote and we do have 30 students who are offered a half day of virtual learning,” said Maestranzi. “But all other students get a full day at the school (from 7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m).”

Maestranzi can see the joy in the faces of the students who are happy to be learning and interacting (from a minimum of six feet away) with their friends for the entire school day.

 “When we opened in September, the kids were so happy to be here even though it’s hard for them – they don’t get to move around a lot,” said Maestranzi.

Maestranzi began his career at St. Pius as a teacher in 1982. His wife, Cherie, is a kindergarten schoolteacher at St. Pius.

In fact, the esteemed husband-and-wife Maestranzi duo was the subject of some heartfelt praise from St. Pius’ successful alumna Michelle Roach (who holds a graduate degree from Harvard) in a recent feature story in the Lynn Journal. Her brother, Stephen Roach, also one of Mr. Maestranzi’s former students at St. Pius, became the class valedictorian at St. Mary’s High School and is a Boston College graduate.

The future is bright for students at St. Pius. The school is adding an after-school bell choir and a knitting club. There are also remote, after-school STEM and robotics programs and a new diversity and sensitivity training program advancing an “everybody is special” philosophy. Maestranzi said overall the students are in great spirits – and the path of an excellent, well-rounded, Catholic school education at at St. Pius is being navigated as smoothly as possible during these unprecedented times in the nation’s history

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