If you want to keep a school going in the midst of a pandemic, Michelle Stellato Belt says, you better be ready to keep the faith — and a sense of humor, too.
The first is easy, she said.
Belt is superintendent of Trinity Christian, a private, faith-based school that sits high in the hills above Morgantown’s Sabraton neighborhood.
The second one, though, is a grapple, since COVID-19 saps spirits just like it does lung capacity.
“Nothing ‘trains’ you for something like this,” she said.
Trinity Christian has been shuttered for the past several weeks with the coronavirus still upon the land.
Which has meant that the Class of 2020 — all 13 members strong — has had a senior year like no other.
No prom, no spring sports, no clubs, no concert recitals, no in-person comaraderie in the main hallway.
However, the seniors are set to go forth on the school football field, in a social-distancing kind of way, for some pomp and circumstance, COVID-19 style.
Ceremonies have been scheduled for 7 p.m. May 22, which is a Friday, she said.
Make that, tentatively scheduled, she said; nothing is permanent in a pandemic.
That was the pre-coronavirus date all along, though, the superintendent said, and it does come with stipulations.
Social distancing will be meticulously maintained, she said, and each senior may bring just two guests, be they parents or others.
“We’re going to maintain all the guidelines,” she said.
“So people can stay safe.”
A small class and a very limited guest list should make it all manageable, she said.
The plan is the plan
The year 2020, the superintendent said, rang in with elements that been nothing but challenges there.
While COVID-19 was brewing overseas in February, Trinity was forced to briefly close that month, due to 80 of its students being out with influenza.
That was roughly 25% of Trinity’s student body of 320, and it didn’t count teachers and staffers who had also fallen ill with the flu.
Then came the novel coronavirus, and as the diagnoses and deaths began to notch up, Trinity again closed its doors for safety.
Only this time it launched itself headlong into the digital domain — with a prayer and a plan. Live, online classes debuted for the school that educates learners from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
“We went from a brick-and-mortar building to an online learning academy in three days,” Belt said. “Our teachers are amazing.”
They aren’t the only ones, she added.
A tech-savvy generation of students quickly took to the environment as well, leaving their monitors on during lunch for a de facto, digital cafeteria.
Belt said while she’s sorry for a limited commencement, she’s happy there will be one.
Because Trinity Christian, she said, gets A’s in graduation.
(Future) tales of pandemic lore
While Trinity’s senior classes are traditionally small, every seat in the gym, until this year, has been full for the senior sendoff.
Parents and grandparents file in, along with aunts, uncles and cousins.
Factor in all the friends who may as well be family, and you’ve got a noise that is quite joyful, she said.
“I appreciate our seniors and their families,” Belt said.
“Family,” the superintendent said, is the Trinity watch-word.
“Because that’s what we are,” she said.
What will she tell those members of the family who will be wearing caps and gowns on May 22?
She’ll turn it around, she said.
She’ll remind them what they will be telling, during the 10-year reunion and to their children down the road.
“They’re going to have some amazing stories.”