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Dyersville elementary school overcomes obstacles to provide students with in-person learning, five days a week

Published: Jan. 22, 2021 at 7:40 PM CST
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DYERSVILLE, Iowa (KCRG) - Music class is one of Natalie Besler’s, a sixth grade student at St. Francis Xavier School in Dyersville, favorite classes.

“You can go to art class, and music and you can play the instruments and stuff, and you do not have to do it online,” she said.

Students at the school have been going to school in-person five days a week since last August. St. Francis Xavier was one of the very first schools in eastern Iowa to bring students back for in-person learning after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“It is really nice because I can go to school and I can ask the teacher any questions and do not have to wait for her to answer the questions and I get to see my friends everyday,” Natalie mentioned.

She loves seeing her friends so much that, sometimes, it is difficult to stay physically distant from them.

“It is a little bit hard to stay six feet apart just because you always want to be next to your friends, but after a little while you get used to them,” Natalie said.

Principal Peter Smith said keeping the students in school, in person has always been the main goal, but achieving that goal has not always been easy.

“At one point, we had roughly 35 students out at one time and I think one of our classrooms had five students out,” Smith said, “But we got through all that.”

The principle emphasized that, by staff, parents, and students coming together, they overcame these challenges.

”We found out through that process that we can make it work through Zooming students into the classroom,” he said. “Parents were wonderful picking up work for students and getting it home with them and teachers were working a little bit extra after school contacting students making sure they knew what was going on.”

Principal Smith said the students’ consistency avoided any major spread of the virus.

“Things like wearing a mask all the time and lining up six feet apart, that just became part of the kids’ daily routine,” he commented. “They picked up on that very quickly, which was surprising to us.”

He said they realized, back in August, they needed to provide the students some sense of normalcy.

“Some of them said, ‘I have not seen my friend since March,’ and that was an eye-opener for us that we realized, ‘We really need to do something to make sure these kids have that social interaction at a normal level’,” Smith mentioned. “They are our greatest resource and we’ve got to provide them with an education and five days a week, it works.”

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