by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Cotter Schools will reopen this fall with distance learning and opportunities for in-person instruction and small group activities for high school students, mostly in-person learning for junior high students and in-person learning for their new fifth and sixth graders.
Safety is paramount this year, Cotter Schools President Sister Judith Schaefer noted. She said she is excited about school reopening and cognizant of staff members’ concerns about returning to the classroom.
“And we’ve tried to talk to staff about, ‘Let’s be gentle with each other,’ because it’s a time none of us have experienced,” Schafer shared. “But people worked really hard last week getting ready. Everyone’s ready to go, but a little apprehensive, and not sure how long it will last.”
Just a few international students will be on campus this semester, Schaefer said. About 20 will take online classes through Cotter, and the hope is that they will be back at school in-person next January, she added. “We will really miss their presence and are eager for their return,” Schaefer noted.
Students in ninth through 12th grade will take part in distance learning on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.
They will have opportunities for in-person learning and small group activities on Wednesdays. They will also have chances to participate in small group activities in-person on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons.
On Wednesdays, two grades will learn in-person at a time from 8 a.m. to noon. One week, ninth and 10th graders may be on campus, for example, and the next week, 11th and 12th graders may attend in-person. Students may take in-person science labs and receive in-person instruction for advanced placement courses on Wednesdays, for instance.
Students may participate in tutoring and small group activities such as bike repair and canoeing on weekday afternoons.
Students may opt to not go to campus for in-person learning and small group activities. They would remain in distance learning on a full-time basis.
Every high school student has a Chromebook for distance learning, Schaefer said.
Students will have four classes a day from 8 a.m. to noon on distance learning days.
The tennis, cross country, soccer and swimming teams will compete at a reduced rate this fall, per Minnesota State High School League guidelines. They will also practice according to those guidelines.
The volleyball and football teams are aiming to compete in the spring at a reduced rate under the guidelines, and they are practicing in the fall according to those guidelines.
Band and choir teachers will offer music appreciation and theory coursework. There may be some opportunity for small in-person rehearsals.
Fifth through eighth graders will stay in cohorts of less than 20 students throughout the school day, and each cohort will have a teacher who remains with it. Students will not rotate between classes. Art and music teachers may come into the cohorts.
Students in the same cohort will enter school through the same entrance and exit through the same exit. They will be on campus from 7:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.
Students may elect to learn through distance learning full-time.
Fifth and sixth graders will learn in-person Monday through Friday. Seven and eighth graders will take part in distance learning on Wednesdays so high school students may be on campus that weekday.
Masks will be required. Students and staff members will have their temperatures taken and answer COVID screening questions. Students will not eat in the cafeteria, but in their classrooms.
Isolation rooms have been created as well. Students will go there if they have COVID symptoms, and their parents will be asked to pick them up.
Deep cleaning will take place, additionally. Students and staff members also had to agree to a code of conduct about abiding by COVID-related protocols at school.