Welcome to WNY Maritime Charter School’s new high school. On top of the preparations to get cadets safely back into the classroom, they had to renovate and move in to this space along South Park Avenue.
We got a look inside.
To make sure we didn’t crowd the deck too much on this first day of the voyage that is school year 2021, we got a tour Monday with Catherine Oldenburg, commandant at the high school.
“This was the silver lining to Covid,” Oldenburg said. “We started working here March 17, when we had to close the old building and we were able to come in here and had to all the cleaning and the painting.”
For the first time, the high school has an auditorium. Larger classrooms means 15 students at a time can learn in-person. That’s compared to the 10 over at the middle school.
“The first class of the day, the students will sit on the right, they will have the sanitation station and they will clean their side,” Oldenburg explained. “The second class will come in and sit on the left.”
Before students can do that though, there will be temperature checks outside and a Q&A to make sure they haven't come in contact with anyone who has COVID-19.
While this new ship is thrilling, for staff, this school year is really about seeing faces again. Master Sergeant Monroe Schroeder says he missed the lessons and inspiration the cadets give him each day.
“I look up to them as much as they look up to me,” he said. “They give me a lot of purpose in life to be able to come in and be part of their life. It’s a big honor for myself.”
His mission this school year is the same: teaching students how to be the best they can be.
“Their character is what’s deep inside, and if you can hopefully adjust it and say the right things, show them that you care,” Schroeder said. “That’s what Maritime is really all about- they pick up on that.”
They know there will be challenges.
“You want to make sure you can keep the students interested,” said Dan Tracz, a WNY Maritime Charter High School math teacher. “Teaching is supposed to be fun, learning is supposed to be fun, so we are going to try and do that.”
“The other issue is how do you run a class online, how do you overcome and adapt,” said Cer. Tony Deaville, a Naval Science Four teacher. “But that’s the most challenging, being flexible.”
Here, though, they are a family.
“I just can’t wait to see the teachers and to get a good structure,” said Celia Medina, a Junior Cadet.
Oldenburg says they were going to do and will continue to do whatever it takes to get them reunited.
“We’ve missed our kids,” Oldenburg said. “We’ve been away from them for six months.”
For the rest of the week, grades will phase in day by day both here at the high school and at the middle school. They'll be fully hybrid by September 8.