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A diverse and hybrid community

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The Queen of Apostles School is ready to “rise to the heights of joy” this coming school year, once again welcoming a unique student body both in-person on the Alexandria campus and online through its academy. Virtual.

One of the many diocesan kindergarten schools in Alexandria, Queen of Apostles stands out as a particularly diverse school. Located in a multicultural area, the school welcomes students from different ethnic backgrounds, including Hispanic, Filipino, African American, and other local communities.

“We celebrate our cultures,” said principal Kristie Meyers, noting that this is a strength in a learning environment. The school intends to bring back an international festival, postponed due to COVID-19, to celebrate the traditions of its families.

The unifying factor is “one God, one faith,” said pastor Fr. Alexander Diaz, adding that the common vision is to inherit heaven through holiness and holiness. In addition to offering Friday Mass and frequent confessions, Father Diaz and Father Joseph M. Rampino, parochial vicar, visit the school weekly.

Meyers is in her second year as director. Last year, she led the school on the theme “A community together”. Coming out of the pandemic, Meyers encouraged volunteerism and community building with opportunities for in-person, virtual and hybrid participation.

Queen of Apostles is also the only diocesan school to offer a fully online offering, a “simultaneous virtual learning environment” called St. Isidore Virtual Academy. It was originally an outgrowth of the pandemic response to bring Catholic education to children in a creative way. It became part of Queen of Apostles in July 2021 and will return this academic year.

“There are a lot of families and students thriving in the virtual environment,” Meyers said, noting that some kids find they can focus better at home. About 34 students from kindergarten through eighth grade will attend St. Isidore Online this fall. Some reside in different states and even countries, as the academy supports children whose parents are posted overseas for the military or in another U.S. government capacity.

“We are entering our second year with St. Isidore Virtual Academy and appreciate that we have more time together as a family, as well as time for sports and extracurricular activities, without feeling rushed,” said parent Shelby Morrow. “Although St. Isidore is a non-traditional virtual classroom, it resembles a home-schooling approach.”

Morrow likes the fact that she can be “directly engaged in the program” as a parent and work as a partner with the student and teacher. St. Isidore allows interaction with classmates and integrates faith through Mass and religious education, Morrow said.

For in-person students at Queen of Apostles last year, Meyers emphasized the importance of integrating technology as a learning tool into the classroom. “As Catholic educators, I think it’s our job to help give technology a purpose for our students.” She focused on partnering with parents to see this initiative through in her first year.

The goal for the 2022-23 school year is to “put faith into action and be joyful about it,” Meyers said. The Queen of Apostles has started cultivating a sense of joy despite the pandemic by doing fun activities such as playing music at the morning carpool.

Father Diaz said the school teaches students to be joyful in everything they do. “We try to explain to them that their homework, their work, their studies, their homework, must bring them joy, because through joy we find Jesus in the Gospel. Joy is not just smiling all the time. Joy is discovering God’s presence in everything, from the little things to the big ones,” Fr. Diaz said.

Queen of Apostles will set up a new system of houses where students meet monthly for different activities aimed at building community. Each of the five houses, made up of students from several levels, will lead the school in a service project.

Meyers described the house system as “meant to be joyful” and centered on faith, action, and children. Thanking vice principal Maggie Walker for developing the idea, Meyers said the plan provides leadership opportunities for older students and provides role models for younger ones.

The school will continue social and emotional learning after the pandemic, ensuring students are comfortable with other children again. “They missed some serious development milestones,” Meyers said, commenting on a national trend from an educator’s perspective.

Queen of Apostles ultimately seeks to provide families with a faith-based learning environment to interact and support each other.

“If you just want that little sense of community, that’s it,” Meyers said. “It’s at your house.”

Peppiatt is a freelancer at Winchester.