Shelton's Holy Trinity looks to grow post-COVID

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — For Holy Trinity Catholic Academy, the pandemic brought with it a spike in enrollment.

The Catholic school — which was the result of the merger of St. Lawrence and St. Joseph’s schools in Shelton and St. Jude School in Monroe some five years ago — appeared to hit a watershed, with nearly 200 students.

That all changed this school year, however, as enrollment slid with the COVID restrictions lifted.

“We had a great influx of students due to the way we were able to enact COVID protocols, however, the reality is most of families came here because of our ability to do that,” said Head of School/Principal Lisa Lanni. “But now they have left the school and returned to public school."

But Lanni sees an opportunity to promote the school, which offers pre-K through eighth grade private education at the St. Lawrence campus. Shelton public schools are dealing with burgeoning class sizes in various grades across at least three elementary schools.

“We have had some families check us out," Lanni said. "We have class sizes that are smaller and much more manageable."

Overall, the school has 167 students, but can hold a maximum of nearly 220. The class size average sits at 17, and Lanni said the school, while short two teachers, has qualified substitutes so no changes in classes were needed. She expects to fill those teaching positions in the coming weeks.

The school attracted families during the pandemic because, unlike public schools, Holy Trinity Catholic Academy remained open through the pandemic, following the COVID masking and distancing restrictions but never going remote. 

“We know we do our academics well, but it is time to branch out to other opportunities for students and expose them to the arts and service projects,” Lanni said. “One benefit here, as we are all back after COVID, we have not seen the wide gaps in education as other schools have endured.

Lanni said COVID relief funds and donations from school families has kept Holy Trinity financially stable.

“As the cost of educating a child rises, just like everything else, the demand to meet those rising costs becomes difficult and challenging," she said. "That is where enrollment is the key.”

Educationally, the school offers Chromebooks for all students; interactive TVs in each classroom; and a recording studio where students do a weekly newscast.

Middle school students now have an activity period during the school day, allowing them to experience various activities such as crochet, science labs with food, first aid and CPR for teenagers, and even origami. There is also a drama club, model United Nations and National Junior Honor Society and Rosetta Stone available for grades five to eight, and students can choose from Latin, Italian and Spanish for virtual world language study.

The school also offers after-school programs such as pickleball, a Lego club, art, and kickball, plus athletic teams in basketball, golf, and track and field.

Gia Aufiero has five children in the school. Her family has been part of HTCA since its inception five years ago.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful community, like one big family,” Aufiero said. “Kids just don’t know those in their classes but those in the whole school. They form such special and meaningful relationships that just keep growing each year.”

Lanni said this was a prevailing comment from those families who recently left HTCA to return to public school. She also admitted that tuition costs were a factor, even though the school does offer financial aid for those who qualify.

“When the families left before this year, they said they had a positive experience, but admitted they had no intention of staying once protocols lifted,” Lanni said.

For Kristina DeSimone, what sets HTCA apart is the “family atmosphere."

DeSimone teaches technology and innovation at the school, and has a child in pre-K. She said the school's size allowed teachers to get to know all the students.

“With smaller class sizes, students have an opportunity to ask questions and get support from their teachers," she said.