While Queen of Angels Catholic Regional School won’t be in operation until the upcoming school year, student bodies from Queen of Angels’ two merging schools are already getting used to the idea of attending one Catholic school for the region.
As reported earlier this year, the Philadelphia Archdiocese announced school mergers for nearly half of its current 156 schools throughout the Greater Philadelphia region, which would create 49 new Catholic Regional Schools.
Among the schools to merge are (OLHC) in Abington into in Willow Grove. The schools are located less than three miles apart from one another.
Immediately after this announcement, the two schools formed a , balanced by stakeholder representatives from both schools. From that team came a subcommittee called the Unity team, made up of three-Queen of Angels stakeholders from each school.
The this Unity team was tasked how best to prepare the two student bodies for the merge.
“In a perfect world, we’d still be in our school,” Martha Clarke, an OLHC parent, said. “But, if this is going to happen, we’re all going to make the best of it.”
Clarke was one of approximately 16 parent volunteers who came to help with the Unity team’s first in a series of Queen of Angels unity days.
Parent volunteers, one from each schools, helped facilitate the icebreaker activities for each grade.
“I think it’s a great day,” Katie Romano, OLHC parent volunteer said. “I think a lot of them were excited about meeting each other.”
Romano, who has a son in the first grade at OLHC, said she knew the merger would go well, as she noticed how each of the schools' first grade students were amused in learning that they had the same books and the same dinosaur projects.
Queen of Angels First Unity Day
The first in a series unity days took place at St. David School on April 2.
For the event, OLHC students and teachers were invited into the classrooms of their St. David School counterparts. Within each grade, the two teachers and two parent volunteers (one from each school) led the students in several ice-breaker activities, appropriate to each grade.
This, of course, is an unprecedented event for both schools.
“Everyone is anxious, but you won’t know it,” Sarah Galbreath, an OLHC Unity Team member, said.
Galbreath said this is a difficult time for OLHC, as the school will cease operation next school year. As a result, teachers from both schools are unsure of their job security for the upcoming school year. However, Galbreath said that both school communities are doing their best to make the process as painless as possible for the students.
She adds that the merger to Queen of Angels is actually one of the smoothest among the diocese’s other school mergers.
“We’re all on the same wavelength here,” she said. “We wanted to create activities that would get the kids closer together – we wanted to bring interaction.”
Many of the activities dealt with learning more about each other through games, some of which asked who are their favorite singers or what are their favorite sports.
“I think it’s a wonderful experience,” Marianne Kleinbrahm, OLHC third-grade teacher, said. “Some of them didn’t realize they played each other in CYO.”
According to Kleinbrahm, with the proximity of the school’s parishes, many of the students were happy to find that they will be attending the same school as their CYO sports competitors.
The various local CYO sports leagues are run through individual church parishes, and not by the schools. While OLHC School may be closing, its parish is expected to maintain its CYO sports leagues.
She said that the students were also delighted to meet in person their pen pals, which was a class-to-class project, held prior to the Unity Day event.
"I think it's going to be wonderful for all involved: the families, the parishes and the schools," Pat Kensey, St. David first-grade teacher, said. "I think it's a good day for the beginning of a great time in all our lives."
‘It’s Going to be a good change’
Passing from classroom to classroom, it was apparent that the incoming Queen of Angels students will have no issues learning together as one school.
“I love the energy,” Amy Fayette, a St. David Unity team member, said. “I could feel the buzz in the hallways.”
One of the clear highlights of the event, for most of the students, was the sudden opportunity to dance.
Throughout the event, and without warning, dance songs, such as “YMCA” and the “Macarena” were played through the loud speakers into each classroom. As if carefully choreographed, the students all got up from their desks and danced in unison to each of the songs’ dance steps.
“We’re having fun, meeting new people and dancing,” Julia Domenick, St. David seventh-grade student, said.
St. David seventh-grade students will soon join the OLHC seventh-grade students as the student leaders of the new Queen of Angels School. Julia, who said she is excited in meeting up with her new OLHC friends at the Upper Moreland Swim Club this summer, is not nervous in the least about the merger.
“It’s going to be a good change,” she said.
Looking for a Community Service Project
The May 8 Unity Day activities will consist of community service projects done onsite at St. David School. According to Sara Galbreath, the students will provide service projects benefitting the Hemophiliac Society and Color Me A Smile, but are also looking for a third, onsite project.
If you are interested, please contact St. David School at 215-659-6393.