New technology, other improvements at Saint Bernard School

Al Roth with Falcon Data Networks installs wire hanging brackets in the ceiling of a science lab classroom at Saint Bernard School in Uncasville Monday, July 20, 2015.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Al Roth with Falcon Data Networks installs wire hanging brackets in the ceiling of a science lab classroom at Saint Bernard School in Uncasville Monday, July 20, 2015. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Montville — When students return to Saint Bernard School, they might not notice the big changes that happened while they were away for the summer — at first.

But if they go to the library or media center, they will see that there are new computers. And for the first time, they will be able to use their own tablet, smartphone or laptop in their classrooms, not just in designated wireless areas.

On a recent visit to the school, workers from New York-based Falcon Data Networks were working in a science room, pulling blue and white wires through a ceiling, which will make that classroom wireless capable. 

By the time school starts, the entire building will be rewired, providing wireless service for up to 1,000 devices at a time.

"Everything we are doing is student-driven and how to better serve them and prepare them for college," said Susan Griffin, the school's director of admissions.

The middle school-high school is able to make the major renovations in part thanks to The Hendricks Challenge, a $3-million capital campaign, and because of its partnership with Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Marist is providing technical expertise, technological platform, cloud system, online courses and desktops free of charge.

The relationship between Saint Bernard and Marist was formed thanks to St. Bernard alumnus and board of trustees member Sean Kaylor, vice president for enrollment management at Marist.

The goal of the capital campaign is to invest $600,000 annually through 2020.

The Saint Bernard community has set a fundraising goal of $200,000 annually over the life of the five-year campaign and received a commitment from the Diocese of Norwich to match up to $200,000 annually during that time.

Maureen Donohue Hendricks, Class of 1972, has pledged to match up to $200,000 each year as well, through the John and Maureen Hendricks Charitable Foundation.

Dana Williams, Saint Bernard's director of advancement, said the school met its first-year goal of $600,000. In the campaign's second year, which started July 1, the school has already received $65,000 in pledges.

"We are encouraging people to continue to give because there is more that we want to do," said Williams. "Hopefully, (the improvements) will get more students here once they hear about all that we are doing and are going to do."

Donald Macrino, headmaster at Saint Bernard, said in addition to the technology upgrades, the school has invested in a new telephone system, which will give the campus the ability to add enhanced security cameras.

This summer the main bathrooms on the first floor were gutted and redone, and some doors were replaced.

Macrino said the next project will be improving the chemistry lab and general modernization of the building, which includes investing in new furniture for some classrooms.

He also said students this year will have access to a virtual high school, which will give them access to more classes that they can take as electives.

"Technology has allowed us to take the chains off of programming and scheduling and has enabled us to provide many more opportunities that we never had before," said Macrino. "It won't replace the one-on-one instruction, but it's a good alternative for small schools or schools that are limited because of budgets."

Over the summer, Macrino said, two teachers went to Marist College and went through intensive training and learned how to create and develop an online college course. The classes created, the History of Western Music and Game and Number Theory, will allow students to earn Marist College credit, he said.

Griffin said Marist has been instrumental in helping the school use its money wisely. She said the college helped them find vendors, look over proposals and make recommendations on what needs to be done.

The college also gave them 100 newer computers. In turn, Griffin said, the school will "pay it forward" and give their computers to any school in the Diocese of Norwich that needs them.

Marist is also redoing the school's website. The school's URL will change in the fall from www.saint-bernard.com to www.saintbernardschool.org.

The school recently completed a 10-year accreditation with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. One recommendation was to review and revamp the curriculum.

Macrino said each core department will rewrite its curriculum for a more global perspective. This year's incoming freshmen will take the revamped courses. When they graduate their diplomas will have a designation that says they have completed a Global Studies Curriculum.

"I think Saint Bernard has established itself in a relatively short time to be very competitive with what magnet schools are offering in the area," said Macrino. "We're a great alternative for a great segment of our population."

i.larraneta@theday.com

Twitter: @larraneta

Al Roth with Falcon Data Networks installs wire hanging brackets in the ceiling of a science lab classroom at Saint Bernard School in Uncasville Monday, July 20, 2015.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Al Roth with Falcon Data Networks installs wire hanging brackets in the ceiling of a science lab classroom at Saint Bernard School in Uncasville Monday, July 20, 2015. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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