GICC returns to class after virtual learning

Published: Dec. 2, 2020 at 4:49 PM CST
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GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (KSNB) -Grand Island Central Catholic Schools returned to normal in-person learning after going virtual due to a staff shortage.

On Nov. 16, ten of the 27 staff members at GICC called out sick with COVID. Principal Jordan Engle made the hard choice to send all kids virtual until after Thanksgiving. He said the ratio of kids to staff was too much for safety reasons.

“I think everybody prefers to be in person,” Engle said. “But wanting to be in person doesn’t take precedence over needing to be safe and when we fall below a certain student to teacher ratio where I have one teacher covering three classes and then that compounds itself with the fact when you have one adult watching 60 kids social distancing isn’t going to happen.”

The vocal music teacher was one who tested positive. He said it was a challenge to teach his material online and now they have to play catch up before the next concert. He also had to deal with recovering from the virus while finding ways to keep the class normal online.

“When GICC went virtual I was actually asymptomatic and so it wasn’t as big of a struggle as it could have been,” Tyler Koepp said. “I was still really fatigued from the aftermath of COVID.”

The teachers are not sure where they got the virus. They believe even with masks they have to get close to each other at times and it is possible they got it from each other. Engle said now that more than half the staff have gotten sick; he doesn’t see staffing being an issue again.

“I feel 100 percent confident in all of the measures that we’ve put in place and the way we are conducting business here at Central Catholic,” Engle said. “Even though we are going to have students going in and out, the virtual system that we practiced and really mastered is allowing us to educate the best we possibly can right now given the situation.”

The week before school went virtual, 60 kids were out sick or in quarantine which Engle said is congruent with what other school districts are seeing.

“The only way we would want to go virtual again is if we came up in a situation where we were unable to staff our building sufficiently to keep kids in the building again,” Engle said. “I don’t anticipate that happening.”

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