St. Ansgar Elementary principal Scott Cakerice

The St. Ansgar Community School District Board of Directors met on Monday, July 20, to discuss going back to school and how they would bring the staff and kids back into school as safely as possible.

The board started with talking about how the softball and baseball season has been, and mentioned working on and developing the outside of the new softball field. They were pleased at how far both teams had gotten and were happy that the students had a chance to play this season.

The board then moved onto the Return to Learn (RTL) plan. The school will update their procedures as information appears. They will have a working document, which will be put on the school website on or after August 3, about the plan all year round that parents and students can access.

Multiple plans were approved for the safety of the staff and students of St. Ansgar. The board discussed the best situation for students to return back to the learning environment. They approved a hybrid start type learning for the elementary and a full in-person learning for the middle school and high school.

The board decided that the elementary students will start their year with half the students starting Monday, August 24, and the other half of students starting Tuesday, August 25. Both groups will be following an every other day pattern. Family members will be in the same group. After the first two weeks all students within the elementary will come to school every day.

As for the 6-12 grade students, the school board decided they will start everyone in person. Multiple precautions will be put into place. All students, K-12, will wear face masks and social distance when they can. There will also be hand sanitizer available.

“We need to err on the side of safety for all students and staff,” Elementary Principal Scott Cakerice said.

Wearing masks for the younger students was a topic that some at the meeting are concerned with. Sherri Hjelmeland, a preschool teacher at St. Ansgar, voiced her concerns on younger students wearing masks.

“They can’t read and decipher facial expressions [with the masks]. That’s a big part of learning, they need to get that down when they’re younger, and it’s in studies that if they don’t learn how to decipher facial expressions like happy and sad, they won’t be able to get the tougher ones later on like empathy. It’s shown that kids that don’t get that can have learning difficulties or have troubles with peers,” said Hjelmeland.

The board said that there will be a survey sent out to parents before school starts, asking if they will be sending their kids into school. Parents will still have the choice, and parents who choose to keep their kids home can have the help of the school in online learning for those students.

The full plan and learning models for the St. Ansgar School District will be on the district website by the end of July. The St. Ansgar board will meet again for their regular board meeting on August 10.

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