Sacred Heart prepares for 2020-21 school year

Plans are in place for Sacred Heart School to open in mid-August and conduct classes in-person. Over the summer, a new vestibule was added onto the entrance of the school. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Teachers and staff at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Monticello have been busy the last few months preparing opportunities for students in grades K-12 for continuous learning.

     When schools closed in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students still had three months left of the 2019-20 school year. Gov. Kim Reynolds offered three options for schools to follow; Sacred Heart chose “voluntary educational enrichment.”

     “Prior to this requirement set by the state, Sacred Heart teachers, staff, and administration were already fulfilling this requirement,” noted Principal Laura Herbers. “They jumped into action right away, and didn’t wait for the governor.”

     Herbers said the Dubuque Archdiocese was also a great source of help during this time.

     Teachers put together learning packets for parents to pick up at the school during designated days and times. Online learning opportunities were also offered for some of the grades.

     “I’m proud with how quickly the teachers jumped in ready to do what they could to ensure students has the materials they needed to continue learning and maintaining their skill level,” praised Herbers.

     The school pulled together resources to make sure their students were still able to continue the skills they worked on inside the classroom while at home.

     Some held Zoom sessions with their students, which also provided an opportunity for students to see their peers again.

     “It was an opportunity to come together and teach a lesson,” noted Herbers of the two-fold option.

     For the older students at Sacred Heart, the school found a way to allow them to check out technology devices to continue learning from home. For the younger grades, teachers emailed support materials to parents.

     Herbers said while voluntary enrichment was not required, students did as best as they could.

     “It was hit or miss,” she reported. “Some didn’t have the capabilities to understand, and we had no idea how long this would last. It was definitely a learning opportunity for everyone (teachers, parents and students).”

     Herbers said if anything, this process also motivated the teachers to continue training to find a consistent way to communicate with parents.

     “It opened our eyes,” she said.

     Herbers also praised the parents of Sacred Heart for their dedication during this difficult time.

     “The parents also earned much recognition. We are incredibly thankful for the time and effort parents, grandparents, and families put into assisting their children.”

     Not only did the school continue with learning, but a strong tradition, “Sacred Heart Olympics,” was brought to students virtually. The weeklong event urged students and families to share their experiences with photos on the school’s Facebook page.

     “Tradition is a huge piece here,” noted Herbers. “There was so much emphasis on academics. It was important to do something lighthearted and fun.”

     She said the students had a blast completing the BINGO card doing different activities at home.

     Looking ahead to the 2020-21 school year, Herbers does not anticipate an early start in August, aligning with the Monticello Community School District for Aug. 24.

     “Best case scenario, we’ll be back in the building where we do the best learning, face-to-face,” said Herbers. “There will be the opportunity to practice online learning.”

     In order to re-open in the fall, Sacred Heart has been relying heavily on the Iowa and Jones County Public Health departments for guidance, as well as the CDC.

     Much like public schools across Iowa, non-public schools like Sacred Heart also had to submit Return to Learn plans.

     “What our plan looks like will depend on the community and school,” explained Herbers. “By the end of July we’ll have a concrete idea, and we’ll be prepared for anything.”

     Herbers said a lot of fine-tuning is still being worked out in terms of how students will return in the fall. There’s been a lot of discussions among staff as well.

     In terms of whether the school will mandate facemasks, the answer is no. But Herbers said if parents feel more comfortable with their child wearing a mask, it would be allowed.

     Regarding social distancing, the school plans to follow the Department of Education guidelines.

     “We’ve had a couple of parents already express concerns, and I appreciate them sharing those concerns,” noted Herbers. “As we know more, we’ll share our plan to give families time to prepare.”

     In the meantime, some construction work took place over the summer, adding a vestibule to the entrance of the school.

     “That was something we added for safety and energy costs,” explained Herbers. “We had generous donors come through.”


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