Innovations and renovations bring new changes to school life


Libby Kaseta '22

Sacred Heart Greenwich undergoes renovations to prepare for in-school learning.

To achieve the goal of “every girl, every day,” academic life and the facilities at Sacred Heart Greenwich underwent various alterations.  Throughout the summer, faculty worked to adapt curricula to hybrid learning.  The Building and Grounds Staff renovated classrooms and other spaces, upgraded the ventilation system, and transformed the nurse’s office.  These efforts contribute to provide students with an in-person learning experience in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Miss Karen Panarella, Upper School Dean of Students, referenced how life at school has been altered. 

“The challenge is keeping girls six feet apart,” Miss Panarella said.  “It is natural for us to want to be closer, but I think that is the hardest part.” 

The new nurse’s suite includes three new isolation rooms, following the Center for Disease Control (CDC) protocol for the reopening of schools.  Libby Kaseta ’22

The innovations to meet these challenges include stickers on the floors to direct traffic and new plastic dividers in Hayes Hall and the science labs.  To accommodate fewer students in classrooms, Caroline’s Core Center is now an additional overflow room.  Last year, the parents of the Class of 2020 funded the renovations to Caroline’s Core Center, a spot for Upper School students to study, socialize, and eat lunch. 

An overhaul of the daily and weekly schedules allows for the entire student body to be on campus every day. 

Upper School students are following a new Monday to Friday schedule of 75-minute class periods with a new addition of 15 minutes of extended passing time, which provides for staggered dismissal time from classes.  Middle School students have an adjusted schedule comprised of three 70-minute classes and two 45-minute classes used for “flex periods.”  These periods are used for faith, community building, and physical education.

Mr. David Olson, Head of the Middle School, remarked on the transition to the adjusted schedule.

“The Middle and Upper School have been considering adopting a block schedule for a few years and the pandemic forced us to quickly move to longer periods to limit the number of daily transitions,” Mr. Olson said.  “As a result, teachers have adopted new teaching methods and are doing an environment for students to explore topics in greater depth, and have created meaningful opportunities for the girls to practice and master important skills.”

For the 2020-2021 academic year, developments in technology enable teachers to provide online learning tools for synchronous and asynchronous lessons.

Teachers also completed summer training provided by members of the SophieConnect team, an online learning platform for Sacred Heart network schools.  This training provided teachers with tools and strategies for online learning that will allow them to best accommodate all types of learners virtually in response to evolving circumstances, according to

The physical changes that complement the academic changes include a new nurse’s suite with three isolation rooms, 200 new desks to allow for physical distancing, the installation of new bottle filling water fountains, along with paper towel, soap and hand sanitizer dispensers, and the addition of three outdoor tents and eight outdoor sinks.

The installation of polycarbonate dividers provides a separation between students in science labs.  Libby Kaseta ’22

Upgrades to the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system to optimize air circulation include the addition of portable air circulation units in rooms with low air exchanges.  The installation of polycarbonate in the science labs allows for distanced labs in science classes.

There have also been challenges during the renovation process.  Mr. Wil Smyers, Grounds Foreman, commented on the obstacles that the Building and Grounds Staff encountered over the summer.

“The challenges have included acquiring materials and products, determining spaces for all the classrooms to fit all of the students, changing guidelines and protocol, and simply having time to complete all of the changes to get every student back on campus,” Mr. Smyers said.

Mr. Smyers’s goal during the renovation process as a whole, along with that of the rest of the Building and Grounds Staff, was to ensure that Sacred Heart students could return to campus safely at the start of a new school year.

“Our goal from day one was to get every student back on campus safely and give everyone the best learning environment possible while following the protocols,” Mr. Smyers said. 

Featured Image by Libby Kaseta ’22