Bishop Guertin High School says parents from all over the region have been inquiring about transferring their children to the private Catholic school in Nashua, where students and teachers will be meeting in person this fall.
The high school, which currently has 800 students, will open Aug. 24, with all of its students attending classes in school. Some public schools in the region, including Merrimack and Bedford, will be reopening with hybrid models that include partial in-school learning and partial remote learning. The Nashua School District will also consider a hybrid approach that will be presented to school officials next week.
“Yes, we have definitely seen a strong interest this year from a variety of towns,” said Jason Strniste, Bishop Guertin’s principal. “We have a pretty comprehensive plan that accounts for both the academic piece and the safety.”
Parents from as far north as Concord, halfway to the Seacoast, east to Wilton and south into Massachusetts have reached out to the Bishop Guertin staff, inquiring about the school, its academics and culture, as well as its plans on opening during the COVID-19 pandemic, Strniste said.
“We are definitely seeing a strong interest from that whole radius,” he said.
Some parents are looking for alternatives to the hybrid and remote schooling models that will take place in some other, public districts.
“All I see on Facebook is people looking for other schools to leave our district, and that saddens me because we are amazing. That is the most number one reason I moved here before I had children,” said Cara Kaupp of Bedford. “Our (Bedford) schools are amazing, and it is incredibly sad.”
Some local public schools are following Bishop Guertin’s lead and also planning to open full-time with in-school learning, including the Amherst School District and the Hollis-Brookline School District, both of which are offering parents the choice of in-person schooling or remote learning.
Strniste said there are a few factors behind the recent interest in Bishop Guertin.
“We did have a lot of success in the spring with remote learning, which built confidence to meet the challenges of the fall. I also think we have a pretty solid plan coming together,” he said, explaining Bishop Guertin is an independent school; it is not affiliated with the Diocese of Manchester.
The diocese announced earlier this month that Catholic schools in the state plan to open with fully classroom-based instruction, along with a new incentive program that reduces tuition costs for students transferring from non-Catholic schools before Aug. 31.
Although Bishop Guertin plans to open in-person with 100 percent of its students, Strniste said that if the COVID-19 situation changes and the school cannot gather students safely, there is a remote model where teachers can still live stream and interact with their students.
“We expect and promise all live instruction in every class, everyday. That is the piece we are committed to,” Strniste said.
With 800 students now enrolled at the school, he said there is space in each class for additional students. He said Bishop Guertin is encouraging families that do inquire about potential transfers to consider the private school’s four-year academic model — not just a single year because of the pandemic.
The Academy for Science and Design charter school in Nashua announced Thursday that it will reopen under a hybrid model.
“Reopening in this way will allow us to get started on time with our instruction, as well as bolster our remote learning program in case we need to rely on that fully in the coming months,” Jenn Cava, director of ASD, said in a statement. “Students will be coming to campus on a limited basis in the early weeks of school to participate in learning activities that provide opportunities for them to do what they really want to do — connect with each other.”
The Nashua School District will present its reopening plan, which includes a recommended schedule for hybrid learning, to the Board of Education next week.
“Reopening schools in Nashua is very different than reopening schools in smaller communities. We want to be prudent and thoughtful,” Superintendent Jahmal Mosely said. “The data is going to drive our decisions.”