It’s been a few weeks since students returned to school this year, but as we all know, this school year is much different from all the rest. With COVID-19 threatening safety, Saint Paul Catholic School is taking every measure possible to ensure their students stay healthy while working hard in the classroom.
Principal Gina Wagenblast has been awaiting the return of her students for months. With a lot of uncertainty on how to start the academic year, she made sure that she and her staff had a strict set of guidelines in place to stop the potential spread of COVID.
“We went through and really vetted out the in-class document from the Indiana Department of Education and thought out what we could do additionally,” Wagenblast said. “After taking into consideration a lot of research, our final set of guidelines is a combination of everybody’s great ideas.”
To add even more safety precautions to the mix, Saint Paul Catholic School sought additional help from the Big Shoulders Fund, who provided additional guidelines based on the need of each building.
“We’re in constant contact with our Porter County health officials as well as our contacts at Big Shoulders Fund,” Wagenblast said. “We’ve taken into consideration all of these additional resources to ensure a safe return.”
One Saint Paul family even reached out and donated two medical grade air purifiers for each classroom. With 205 students from pre-k to 8th grade, the purifiers add yet another layer of protection to ensure student safety. And on the first day, it was nothing but smiles.
“Even though we have the masks on, you could see the eyes of the students just big and wide and excited, and it really felt like business back to usual,” Wagenblast said. “The kids have been amazing, they haven’t even blinked an eye with the masks and whatnot.”
The students seemed to adapt on the spot to all of the new precautions being taken, bringing a sense of normalcy to a situation that isn’t normal at all.
“It makes it all worth it when you see the students,” Wagenblast said. “They’re happy, they’re excited. I’ve had emails from parents saying how much their kids are glad to be back.”
The lead Pastor and Associate Pastor have even made it possible to stream masses in and out of the classroom. Between rotating which class gets to attend in-person mass each Friday, and streaming from the classroom, students are still able to celebrate their faith as an important part of their education.
“There’s nothing that can replace being back in person socially and emotionally,” Wagenblast said. “Being able to build that sense of community will help our students feel that they are loved by their school, by their teachers, and by the bigger sense of the Saint Paul community.”