Roncalli educator led efforts for a safe and socially distanced graduation and return to school

By Nancy Price

This past spring and summer, emergency personnel and healthcare workers around the world have received well-deserved praise as heroes of the pandemic crisis.

Yet, there are other professionals working quietly behind the scenes to make sure life goes on as planned, including educators. As Roncalli High School students and their families worried there may not be traditional events for seniors, including a celebration day and graduation, Roncalli staff and faculty teamed up to ensure these activities would happen.

“It was quite challenging in the spring as one part of your mind kept thinking, ‘OK, this is serious stuff but we will get a handle on it and will be able to get back to having fun and holding events’ while the other part of your mind kept thinking, ‘Is this ever going to get better and it sure does not seem like events such as graduation will be able to happen,’” said Roncalli Principal Chuck Weisenbach.

“We had to cancel their picnic, senior mass, baccalaureate and Memorial Day weekend graduation,” added Roncalli Dean of Students Tim Crissman. “We were sad that the senior class was not going to get its chance to be fully recognized in person for all of their accomplishments. We quickly, however, started to invest our energy into working out how to provide our seniors the best COVID-19 impacted experience that we could.”

Roncalli Dean of Students Tim Crissman. (Submitted photo)

“Tim was a part of a larger team that simply would not let COVID-19 stand in their way of recognizing our seniors for their exemplary four years nor stand in the way of celebrating these outstanding young people,” Weisenbach said.  “He worked long, long hours, much of it behind the scenes, tending to all of the nuances that needed attention if we were going to pull off the events safely!”

The Senior Celebration Day, with mass, was held outside in Roncalli Stadium on July 20, with graduation following the next day. “We allowed guests to sit in the bleachers as well as on the stadium field which allowed for maximum social distancing and some excellent vantage points for these two special events,” said Weisenbach. “The parents were extremely happy that their children were going to get at least a snippet of the acknowledgement they deserved.”

There was no time after graduation for Roncalli staff to take a break. Instead, they gathered to plan a safe and socially distanced return for all students, including increased disinfecting, providing larger classrooms for social distancing and reworking how to deliver food in the cafeteria. In addition, they provided a synchronous learning environment for students studying at home and school, learned how to build a new curriculum and how to handle positive cases, close contacts and symptomatic students and staff.

“All of this work has been put in place to allow our students the high school experience they deserve – although for this interim period – socially distanced and with masks. Our ability to come together as one for the better of all our students while helping them understand how God works in their lives gives me the daily energy to live out my calling,” Crissman said.