News and Information Updates

A Christmas Letter From Our Superintendent

Dear Families,

As the Advent season brings us to the celebration of Christmas and the birth of Christ, I invite you to consider the following verse, When they saw the star, they were overjoyed Matthew 2:10. 

Being a parent, and in my case also a grandparent, we are presented with a unique opportunity to witness the pure joy that is a child at Christmastime. For adults, the holiday season is often filled with lists, gift wrapping, and errands. This year has brought additional stress and new challenges to navigate amidst COVID-19 concerns and social distancing. It has become easy for us to forget the joy of the moment. Children can see the world as we cannot; with an innocence and excitement for these celebrations. During the beginning of December, I decorated my Christmas tree with my young grandchildren. The moment the lights were turned on, I was greeted with excited yells and laughter. I couldn’t help but smile at their happiness, over something as simple as Christmas lights. This pure joy is the joy we should all feel during this time of year. Our children (and grandchildren) are the light in our lives, just as Jesus is a light for all people. 

We often forget, amidst the shopping lists and errands that we are celebrating Jesus coming into the world.  Jesus is the greatest gift God has provided for us.  The light and hope that his birth brought to the world, as described in the verse from Matthew, is a sentiment we should bring into our lives always, but especially during the Christmas season. I encourage you, throughout the coming days and weeks, to take time in your busy day, to pause and reflect on the meaning of the season.  Look to your children for the joy we all need and embrace the small moments that make this time of year so special. 

I wish you a very Merry Christmas filled with peace, joy, and special family moments, and a happy, healthy New Year. We are looking forward to welcoming in the new year with you. 

In Christ,

Thomas Chadzutko, Ed.D.
Superintendent ~ Catholic School Support Services

News and Information Updates

Messages of Motivation From Notre Dame Staff

Coronavirus News and Information Parent Resources

New York Announces Mental Health Hotline

God bless the 6,000 mental health professionals that are doing this 100 percent free on top of whatever they have to do in their normal practice.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, referring to new mental health hotline

Attending to mental health is as important as any other health practice. Please see the information shared today by Norwood Keaton, Executive Director of PDHP:

New York announces mental health hotline amidst coronavirus pandemic – Business Insider


Please call 911 for emergency needs,

To reach PDHP for less severe cases and ongoing support, please call 718-550-0025.

Stay well, stay safe all!

News and Information Parent Resources Updates

The Best

Last week was overwhelming. The barrage of information, the emotions, the awkwardness of newness, the worries, the uncertainty and the isolation. Everyone, no matter their professional calling, is in triage stages of crisis in their homes. If we had never multi-tasked before, we are now on a level we’ve never seen before. All the roles we have played before have intersected.

As Brooklyn Borough Director & my supervisor, Katie Riggs-Poy stated, “everyone may be impacted differently but EVERYONE is impacted.”

When teaching, you evaluate and re-evaluate your plans and strategies. You give it a few good shots, you improve where you can, you keep what works and you begin again where you need. It is time-consuming and can be emotional but the outcome is positive. The effect produced is efficient, the focus is refined. It is a kindness you would extend to a learner in your class. I am applying this practice to my current work-from-home lifestyle.

I am keeping a schedule as best as I can but am adding in the edge of flexibility. We may be up and rolling on time, but perhaps it is Pajama Day today. I am looking for ways to keep our working space organized and engaging. One side of the dining room table is business, and the other is for meals and games. A few baskets help to corral needed items and are easy to stash away.

I am holding boundaries of time. I keep my work time set and, in this crisis, evaluate what is immediate and what can wait. I am also applying boundaries of limits to my social media. Even with outreach of best intention, it can leave my head spinning so I try to take away one thing on which to focus; right now, it is rainbows in our windows.

I seek new ways to accomplish tasks and break them in gently. I am no longer face-to-face giving workshops, but I am recording snippets and posting them. I take breaks. I have been trying the Pomodoro Technique, although lately we are deferring to my daughter’s one-song dance break every hour on the hour. I have always appreciated the concept of supervision when working at PDHP. I use it to my advantage and am grateful to the boundless understanding with which Katie listens, acknowledges and advises. I notice the tell-tale signs of anxiety taking root and that’s when I breathe….4 counts to inhale, 4 counts to hold, and 8 counts to exhale. That reminds my head and my body that right now, right here, we are ok.

Be gentle; let go of shortcomings and instead return to the process to reflect, evaluate, refine. Embrace awareness from that earlier awkwardness. Each day will be a better version of us. We are doing the best we can.

For more information on the Pomodoro Technique…check out this video:

-Cary Anne Fitzgerald, Parent/Community Coordinator, PDHP

Coronavirus Parent Resources Updates

Establishing a Routine During the Coronavirus Crisis

Routine is healthy for children, no matter the situation. In high-energy times of confusion and panic, however, positive repetition is crucial to staying stable and productive. As your family practices “social distancing,” or actions intended to stop or slow the spread of infection, establishing and maintaining a routine together with your child is the first step to being successful in the transition to online learning.

Use the examples below for inspiration for designing your child’s routine as he or she continues to adapt to the changes wrought by COVID-19.

Why Routine is Important

With so much news and information surrounding the Coronavirus floating around, your child is bound to pick some of it up. He or she may feel anxious or confused, and many new and difficult questions may arise. Routine is the key to easing these anxieties and ensuring your child remains focused on learning.

“Routines provide structure and a sense of safety, which helps our students to be ready to learn and take intellectual risks,” says Ellen Mahoney, the author of Ten Strategies for Educators’ Wellbeing: A Handbook for Schools During the COVID-19 Outbreak. By starting early and encouraging your child to be healthy and active at every stage of the routine, he or she will be better prepared to face the transition from learning in the classroom to learning at home.

Example Home-Schooling Schedule

Before 9:00 a.m. – Wake up, brush your teeth, make the bed and get dressed, and eat breakfast.

9:00-10:00 a.m. – Practice a morning ritual, beginning with a prayer with your child, and then a short walk or light exercise.

10:00-11:00 a.m. – Time for learning! For older children, do your schoolwork as assigned by your teacher. For younger children, consider puzzle books, flash cards, journaling, or study guides that align with materials provided by their teacher.

11:00-12:00 p.m. – Use this hour to be creative. Draw or paint a picture, craft a project, or play music.

12:00-12:30 p.m. – Have a healthy and balanced lunch.

12:30-1:00 p.m. – Do household chores or ask your parents/guardians if they need any help.

1:00-2:30 p.m. – Use this time as quiet time. Read a book, put together a puzzle, or take a nap.

2:30-4:00 p.m. – More time for learning! For older children, continue with your teacher-assigned work. For younger children, consider incorporating technology into this academic time by watching an educational television show or playing educational iPad games.

4:00-5:00 p.m. – Practice an afternoon ritual, such as a walk or light exercise.

5:00-6:00 p.m. – Have dinner with your family.

6:00-8:00 p.m. – Use this time as free time. Watch television or play games!

After 8:00 p.m. – Go to bed and prepare for the next day.

Resources for Enriching Your Child’s At-Home Experience

During this transitional period from learning in the formal classroom to learning from home or elsewhere, your children may crave further activities and resources that will enhance their learning experience. In this technological age, screen time has become deeply ingrained in current pedagogies – providing your children with additional online educational resources can support their learning as they remain physically separated from their teachers and peers.

Khan Academy Kids – For your children ages two to seven, this app serves as curated collection of activities, books, videos, and coloring pages. a collection of books This app contains books and activities for ages 2-7.

BrainPop Jr. – This site targets children in Kindergarten to 3rd grade that supports core and supplemental subjects. While the site has subscription options, it also has free videos and activities.

BreakoutEdu – This site’s digital “escape rooms” give children an outlet for some healthy competition, designed using grade appropriate content for Kindergarten through 12th grade. (options for K-12). Several rooms for different grade levels are available for free.

Code – This site teaches students how to code through fun and free games and instruction.

Mystery Science – Aimed at children in Kindergarten through 5th grade, this site provides access to science related videos, lessons, and activities. For the remainder of the academic year, the site is currently offering its resources at no cost.

PBS Kids – Use this website for fun videos and games for your child. The site also provides helpful tips for parents and children for successfully learning at home.

Sesame Street – Aimed at younger children, this site provides access to a collection of videos, games, and art.

Starfall – For younger children in Pre-K to 3rd grade, this website provides access to a collection of videos, games, and reading activities. Paid and free content are both available.

Vooks – For the remainder of the academic year, this website will provide access to animated read-aloud texts for free.


Parent Resources

Blast Off Into Learning!

Story Time in Space

Use the link below to listen to watch an astronaut read a story from the International Space Station. For older students, check out the “Science Time Videos” tab to watch experiments completed by the astronauts.

Space Racers

This is an animated series for younger students featuring space. The website has videos, games, and also a “Parents” tab that includes activities that can be done at home involving space.

Earth from Space

This site houses a collection of photos of the Earth from space. Students can look for familiar locations from around the world and the US.

Space Themed Writing Prompts
• You’ve just landed on the moon. Use your senses to describe what you see, hear, feel, and touch.
• If you want to space, what three items would you want to bring with you? Why would you bring these items?
• Write a journal entry from the point of view of an astronaut

Add pictures to your writing to highlight important ideas.

Space “Jams” (PK-2)
Eight Planets Dance Along

Planet Song

Space Crafts

Materials: White paper, marble, paint, plastic spoon, container with raised sides

space artwork crafts projectCut out a planet shape. Then dip a marble in washable paint and use a spoon to move it around the shape. The rolling marble creates swirls as seen on planets. Roll the marble inside a container with raised sides to keep the marble from rolling away.

space artwork crafts projectMaterials: Black paper, constellation images, chalk, star stickers or yellow crayon to draw stars

Give your child an image of a constellation (available on Google images). Have them use star stickers or draw star shapes to recreate the constellation. Use chalk or white crayon to connect the stars and write the constellation name.

space artwork crafts projectMaterials: Phases of the moon pictures, oreos/ black and white paper

Give your child images of the moon phases. Using oreos or black/white paper pieces have your child recreate the order of the moon phases. If using oreos, your child can use a plastic or butter knife to remove enough frosting to replicate the phases

Coronavirus Parent Resources Updates

Always Look for the Helpers

“My mother used to say, whenever there would be a real catastrophe that was in the movies or on the air, she would say: ‘Always look for the helpers, there will always be helpers.’ … Because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.” Mr. Rogers

While I have very fond memories of watching Mr. Rogers as a child, I don’t recall when I originally came across these words of his. Maybe it was during 9/11. I remember standing at the window of my 8th Grade classroom, flanked by two of my students. The kids in the classroom were all processing what was happening in different ways; some were sitting quietly at their desks and some were carrying on as if it were a regular day. (I still recall a particularly humorous child who provided us all with comic relief.)

The two with me reacted differently: one was quiet and anxious and the other was trying to hold back helpless tears and tightened fists. Teachers were never prepared for this – no one was — so I did what I thought seemed right. I stood in silence with them for a bit, walked around and checked in on the quiet ones, chattered along with the others. To this day, I cannot be sure I did the right thing, but I do hope that I held that space for them.

Maybe this quote surfaced during Super Storm Sandy; now I was suddenly without the shelter of my own home. How was I going to hold this space again, for my young child and for my junior high kids, when I was feeling those tears, that rage uncertainty? I had a choice to make. I shared those hard feelings when I needed to during conversations with my family and my close friends. My husband and I counted blessings, we kept close to routine, and we chose to reframe this as a temporary “adventure.” This was a delight to my preschooler and assured my students that we were still good to go. You know what? We had fewer of those hard feelings and more of those blessings!

During this difficult time, acknowledge yourself. Find a person with whom you hold space. Find gratitude for what is working. Do something good for yourself. Reframe this time for your children. Connect. Allow. Laugh.

You’re a helper now.

-Cary Anne Fitzgerald, Parent Community Outreach Coordinator

Thanks to Queens North Regional Coordinator Kristin Malone for sharing this resource on talking to children about Covid-19.