PHOTOS: St Paul’s Day School – Keeping it Small and Keeping it Safe

At St Paul’s Day School in Riverside, director Lisa Adorno said the school, which enrolls about 55 children, ages two to five, had a very enthusiastic reopening last week.

About a dozen new students are from families who relocated to Greenwich from New York during Covid.

“They are so happy with all the space for the kids to run around,” Adorno said. “We realized we take all the space for granted – and our large enclosed playground.”

Children at St Paul’s Day School enjoy the new “Story Corner.” Contributed
St Paul’s Day School playground is split into two to accommodate two classes at a time. A parent with a building maintenance supply company donated an electrostatic sprayer that uses a plant-based disinfectant. The playground is sanitized after each use. Sept 14, 2020

“The mood has been fabulous,” said Adorno who was hired after the school conducted a wide search following Toni Natale’s retirement a year ago. Previously she worked for 15 years at Rippowam Cisqua Preschool in Mt. Kisco, NY. “It’s high energy here. Happy happy.”

Adorno prepared all summer for the reopening, participating in a weekly Zoom meeting with about 20 other pre-school directors, which she said was very helpful.

“If we do this right, this can continue,” she said, adding that St Paul’s will not mirror the public schools schedule if, for example, Riverside School were to close to quarantine. “We’ll remain open unless we have a case.”

“We’re keeping it small; keeping it safe,” she added. “The parents are so grateful for their children to have some sort of normalcy again. The teachers are beyond thrilled to have the kids back.”

Lisa Adorno, director of St Paul’s Day school with board member Elisabeth Miranowski. Sept 14, 2020 Photo: Leslie Yager

Each of the half dozen classrooms at St Paul’s has a separate space for parents to drop off and pick up their children, and a dedicated door. Drop off and pick up times are staggered.

The playground was big enough to divide into half so two classes can use it at the same time, is disinfected after each use.

Instead of a PE program, the children play outdoors in the meadow. As for music and art, those teachers record their lessons, and the classroom teachers share them and initiate the activities.

“That way if we do have to go to remote learning – if a child or teacher tests positive – the children will have already been exposed to it, and the transition will be easier,” Adorno said, adding that all the teachers were trained to use Google Classroom over the summer. “The teachers are already using that platform in their classrooms to post pictures and give virtual tours of their classrooms, which is nice since parents can’t come in the building.”

The number of dots signal to children that three of them can play in this area. Sept 14, 2020 Photo: Leslie Yager

Adorno said the amount of materials in the classroom has been pared down to limit the number of touchable surfaces.

“They have to get back to using their imaginations to sustain their play,” said Elisabeth Miranowski, a parent who is on the board. “They really didn’t need a million things to play with.”

There is a daily protocol for children as they arrive. They have their temperature taken and their parents fill out a form that includes a question about whether they have been exposed to anyone who has tested positive for Covid.

Parents leave their children off at the playground rather than come inside the building to help them hang up their coats.

“Parents are adjusting – it’s Covid, and moms are leaving them somewhere for the first time,” Miranowski said. “My little one just turned two last week.”

And while some of the littlest ones have a bit of separation anxiety, Adorno and Miranowski agreed that is typical in any year.

Miranowski said the children have adjusted quickly. “They will become that much more independent,” she added.

The program this year is taking advantage of outdoor spaces that were under-used in the past.

Spacious meadow at St Paul’s Day School features tents for classes. Sept 14, 2020 Photo: Leslie Yager
Children love the “Story Corner” with stools fashioned from logs in the meadow at St Paul’s Day School. Sept 14, 2020 Photo: Leslie Yager

The meadow, which was only used for special all-school events, including the Harvest Festival and Field Day, is now a great place for the children to spread out in the fresh air. There is even a tent for each class, and a “Story Corner” for the 3’s and 4’s where they sit on stools fashioned from logs.

The two-year-olds have their own beautiful interior courtyard.

The Beginnings Class, for children turning two between September and December, have two teachers.

The regular 2’s class has eight children and two teachers.

Adorno said the school added a second classroom for two-year olds to maintain the low class size.

The 3’s class has a maximum of 10 children due to Covid. Usually the max is about 12-14.

For 4’s they capped class size at 14; typically the max is 18. The 4’s have three teachers.

Inquiries about enrollment can be directed to the director at (203) 637-3505 or submit an inquiry on the school’s website.

Classroom at St Paul’s Day School. Sept 14, 2020 Photo: Leslie Yager
Classroom at St Paul’s Day School. Sept 14, 2020 Photo: Leslie Yager
Desks have tape to indicate social distancing at St Paul’s Day School. Sept 14, 2020 Photo: Leslie Yager
Classrooms have been pared down in terms of touchable surfaces and toys. The dogs indicate to children how many of them can be in one area. Sept 14, 2020 Photo: Leslie Yager
Dots help parents practice social distancing when they come to pick up their children at St Paul’s Day School. Sept 14, 2020 Photo: Leslie Yager