With public schools in Otsego and Delaware counties tightening budgets and expecting class sizes to rise this year, some parents are assessing the options they have for educating their children. In Oneonta at least two Christian schools have survived the tests and trials of time. On Route 7, St. Mary’s School celebrated 85 years of education in 2009. And on River Street, the Oneonta Community Christian School is celebrating 25 years of education this year. Register now for the fall.
St. Mary’s: ‘We Live Our Faith’
Fewer Students Mean Individual Attention
By LAURA COX : ONEONTA
In 1924, St. Mary’s Church first opened a Catholic school on Walnut Street. Then, around the turn of the 21st Century, recently deceased Father Paul Roman spearheaded the transition of the school to its new building, which opened in 2001.
The early-childhood through sixth grade school follows the New York State curriculum and performs state testing just as in the public schools.
“We add to that the Catholic faith values,” said St. Mary’s Principal Patricia Bliss, “we take care of the intellectual, social and physical needs of students like all schools do, but we also have the opportunity to address spiritual needs.
“Here we are able to live our faith,” said Bliss, “We’re not in math class counting angels and subtracting
devils, but when there are teachable moments we can use our faith to talk about it.”
The 116-student school will be making some changes in the upcoming school year, Bliss said. With a drop in enrollment over the last few years they have reevaluated their class sizes and have made the decision to move to a multi-age classroom setting.
In this new set up, they will be combining certain grades in one classroom as dictated by the enrollment. Bliss anticipates first and second grades, third and fourth grades, and fifth and sixth grades will be combined, the idea is to not only meet the social needs of students, but also their learning needs.
Currently the sixth grade class at St. Mary’s only has two students; other classes have just four or seven. While the school embraces small class sizes as an opportunity to work with students one on one, Bliss said it does not provide much of a social outlet for the students.
In the multi-age classrooms teachers will be using technology to better meet the learning needs of the students they work with.
“With differentiated instruction we will be able to meet each child at their individual needs and we will also be more technology based,” said Bliss.
She explained that if students are learning to add fractions and one student has mastered the concept, they can move on using computer software programs and they will not be “set in the curriculum.”
The school received a Smartboard in recent weeks thanks to an anonymous donor and a few other donations made by community members to use towards that purchase. They are already set up with wireless internet and they have applied for a few grants to fund the purchase of laptops to help with the differentiated instruction.
When they started reassessing the school to see how to make the new classroom setup work best for the students, Bliss said they realized they were already doing a lot of the same things they will make regular next year, such as differentiated learning.
“We are building on our strengths,” said Bliss.
Next year the school will also work more closely with students from SUNY Oneonta who have been studying in their coursework about multi-age classrooms, but have never had the opportunity to see them in action.
“It will hopefully be beneficial for both,” said Bliss about working with SUNY Oneonta.