St. Bernard opens for 60th school year with changes underway

Montville — Sixty years ago, St. Bernard School opened as a Catholic girls' high school in New London.

On Monday morning at 8 a.m., more than 300 middle and high school students streamed through the hallways at the school's Uncasville campus, in a blur of red and white polos, gray skirts and khakis.

Some ran toward each other and hugged after a long summer absence, others stood beside each other like they had never left.

Headmaster Donald Macrino reminded the students, in an address in the school's auditorium, of some of the things that were happening in the world in 1956 as St. Bernard opened.

The Federal-Aid Highway Act authorizing the construction of the Interstate Highway System was signed into law that year. Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" shot to the top of the music charts.

The anniversary was a chance to reflect on the school's past, but Macrino was also there to promote ways St. Bernard is changing in its 60th year.

"We look forward to where we're going," he said.

In the audience, a student sneezed.

"Bless you," Macrino said from the stage.

The first day of school also served as the public unveiling of several improvements to the Route 32 building, including two renovated hallways and a chemistry lab still in the works.

State Rep. Kevin Ryan, D-Montville, was on hand with state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, to cut a ribbon on the renovated hallway and give the students a word of wisdom.

"There is life after high school," Ryan, a 1970 St. Bernard graduate, said with a laugh.

The two legislators got a hand with the ceremonial scissors from longtime teacher Jim Leone and his daughter Marie Londregan, who began working as a St. Bernard teacher alongside Leone Monday.

Frances Lo, a social studies and English teacher who has been at the school for more than a decade, said she recognized the first-day-of-school atmosphere easily.

"There's a lot of tension and excitement," she said.

The assembly over and the ribbon cut, St. Bernard students quickly vacated the front lobby to get back to class through newly carpeted and lighted hallways.

The chemistry lab on the second floor will be finished by mid-September, and will double as a classroom.

m.shanahan@theday.com

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