On the morning of Thursday, March 12, Regis Principal Rev. Anthony D. Andreassi, CO, stood before the student body in the auditorium to make an announcement: For the first time in its history, Regis High School would transition to remote instruction due to the spread of COVID-19.
When Regians left school that day, they didn’t know when they would be back. Initially, Regis announced a plan to close the building for at least two weeks while awaiting further guidelines from the city, the Archdiocese, and public health authorities. As the seriousness of the pandemic increased, it soon became clear that a swift return was unlikely. Eventually, on April 23, Regis President Rev. Daniel K. Lahart, SJ, announced that the school would not return to the building during this academic year.
While everyone in the Regis community would prefer to be together on 84th Street during healthy and safe times, Regis students, faculty, and administrators agreed that the transition to remote instruction was smooth and the ongoing operations of the school went very well under difficult circumstances.
“I am incredibly grateful to our dedicated faculty for their flexibility, generosity, and resilience as they have continued to educate, care for, and form the young men of Regis High School,” Fr. Andreassi said. “I am equally thankful for our wonderful students who have inspired us with their perseverance and their commitment to learning and to one another during these historically challenging times.”
The success certainly had its roots in the intense, robust preparations that took place in early March. The Regis faculty, aided by the expertise and tireless work of the school’s Information Technology Office, participated in thorough training sessions and prepared extensively in advance for the shift. Unlike many other schools, Regis prioritized synchronous learning, with all classes continuing to meet at their scheduled times through the use of Zoom and other remote learning tools identified by the IT staff.
“I felt prepared — prepared knowing I was going to work together with our entire community,” said Dr. Stefano Cascapera of the Regis Science Department. “We all did try to do our best, using our experience, talking to our colleagues, following the recommendations of the IT department and the administration. The most important factor that gave me that positive feeling, though, is the knowledge of our phenomenal students — their emotions, their drive, and their great ability to be independent and to work together, and ultimately to overcome difficulties.”
Needed adjustments were made. After a few weeks, the school designated Wednesdays as a Community Day without classes, allowing teachers and students time to catch up on work given the added demands of remote instruction. The introduction of this weekly Community Day also gave student clubs dedicated time to hold meetings, an important step in maintaining a sense of normalcy. The spiritual development of Regians also continued, as the Campus Ministry Office held virtual retreats and community Masses, which were broadcast live on Zoom from the Regis chapel and featured student readers participating from their homes.
Most critically, students continued to learn from their dedicated teachers, their rigorous assignments, and their supportive classmates. “We are part of a community that is committed to academic excellence, and this experience has shown us that space and time has no bearing on our ability to do superb academic work,” Jake Lang ’21 said.
In the absence of an effective treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, Regis, like so many institutions, faces an uncertain future beyond its summer recess. If the past few months have demonstrated anything, it’s that the Regis community will rise to meet the challenges that lie ahead.
“As much as I don’t know what the future will look like come Labor Day and beyond, there is something that I know and am very confident of, ” Fr. Lahart said. “No matter what the fall looks like, whether we’re back in the building here at 84th Street, or still doing Zoom sessions, or some hybrid of the two, no matter what this virus does to our health and to our spirit, no matter what happens with the economy and with the election of the fall of 2020, the mission of Regis High School will last. As we have done for the past 106 years, we will continue to transform the lives of boys from all across the metropolitan area into men of competence, conscience, and compassion – Men for Others. No virus, no pandemic will change who we are and what we are about.”