Holy Redeemer adapts
Staff, students celebrate ‘what our school is about’ even during a pandemic
MARSHALL — A lot has changed for local schools this year, and Holy Redeemer School is no different.
But while students and staff have been social distancing and making use of distance learning technology, they’ve still found ways to learn and grow in faith together, principal Josh Langseth said.
Langseth said both those things are important parts of Catholic Schools Week, which HRS and other area Catholic Schools took part in this week. “We really get to celebrate what our school is about,” and different aspects of the Catholic faith, he said.
Celebrations at HRS looked a little different this year. The school has adapted both in-person classes and special activities to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“We’ve been fortunate,” Langseth said Thursday. HRS has been able to have in-person learning through most of the school year, partly due to small class sizes, he said.
There was a three-week window, in the middle of the COVID case spike that hit the Marshall area this fall, where HRS switched to distance learning for all students, Langseth said. “Right now, our numbers are in a good spot,” with very few students needing to be in quarantine, Langseth said.
HRS currently has around 265 students enrolled in preschool through eighth grade. Langseth said HRS had seen some interest from families who wanted to make sure their children had in-person learning this school year.
He estimated about a dozen of the new students enrolled at HRS this year were there because of in-person learning opportunities.
Private schools like HRS don’t have to follow the same state rules for reopening schools that public schools do. But Langseth said HRS took steps this year to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Desks are spaced out in classrooms, and students wear face coverings and use clear plastic screens around their desks. One challenge the school faced was how to give students enough social distance during weekly Mass in the chapel, he said. Instead of having one weekly Mass for the whole school, HRS now has two — one for students in the elementary school grades, and one for middle schoolers.
If a student needs to be at home for quarantine reasons, Langseth said, HRS offers tablet computers that let kids participate in class remotely.
“Staff have really been able to embrace that,” he said. With the help of the tablets, “We even bring (students) to Mass.”
The need to follow COVID-19 safety procedures meant some school activities, like Catholic Schools Week, have looked different this year.
“Normally, we would have school-wide activities together,” Langseth said. This year, “We had to get a little creative.”
Some traditional activities, like the carnival that the eighth-grade class organizes for younger students, have been postponed until May, when they can be held outside. Instead, students took part in outdoor activities like roasting marshmallows for S’mores, and had visits from virtual guests.
“We had different (HRS) alumni do some virtual read-alouds,” Langseth said. The guests included alumni Blaise Andries and Trey Lance, who have since gone on to become athletes at the University of Minnesota and North Dakota State University, respectively.
“Every homeroom was on the Zoom sessions,” Langseth said. Both Andries and Lance also talked about their lives and their faith journeys. He said both had good advice for students, whether it was Lance talking about how he finds time to “recharge his batteries” in life, or Andries encouraging kids to look out for each other.
Even though a lot has changed this year at HRS, Langseth said it’s been important to have students back in the classrooms in person.
“Socially, to be with your peers is a huge benefit,” he said. “We’ve been pretty lucky.”