Local schools eager to make final plans for start of school year

Deb Moldaschel
The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch

Schools in Sleepy Eye, and throughout the state, expected an announcement early this week by Governor Walz, on how schools would be allowed to teach students this fall in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Weeks ago schools were advised an announcement would be made the week of July 27 — apparently that is true, but they recently learned the announcement would not come until Thursday, July 30. There have been hints in the governor’s comments that some flexibility may be allowed.

Sleepy Eye Public School has developed the required three plans — one for reopening school, one for distance learning, and one for a hybrid model that incorporates both distance learning and in-school learning. Next week the Herald-Dispatch will have a full report from Superintendent John Cselovszki on what the school experience will be like when school resumes on Monday, Aug. 24.

Sleepy Eye’s two private schools, St. Mary’s Catholic School and Grace Lutheran School, both plan to have in-person school. Both also await the governor’s announcement to firm up their plans and make any final adjustments.

Fr. Mark Steffl announced in the church bulletin on July 19: “St. Mary’s School is definitively planning on opening this upcoming school year at the end of August. . . . the Bishops of Minnesota have been working on a plan for the Catholic Schools of Minnesota together, saying that although there are risks in starting, there are also risks to our students in not starting, which are significant. With the guidance of the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis, along with the Director of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of New Ulm, our administration has been working on identifying all the necessary protocols and accommodations that will need to be made for this to happen, always with an eye to safety as a priority, and doing what is best for our students.”

St. Mary’s Elementary School Principal Mary Gangelhoff said after Gov. Walz makes the announcement the school staff will meet to finalize their plan and then communicate it to parents. St. Mary’s School starts on Aug. 25.

“We are also planning for in-person school, but are waiting to see what implications the Governor’s actions have on reopening,” said Pastor Nathanael Mayhew of Grace Lutheran Church and School. “We are planning a staff meeting later this week to discuss this and finalize our plans.”