NUACS logs in 1st week of distance teaching, learning

Taylor Lamecker is learning from home.

NEW ULM — New Ulm Area Catholic Schools (NUACS) began its second week of e-learning on Monday, and thanks to the school’s Chromebook program, students and family are adapting to the changing environment.

NUACS Assistant Development Director Tamara Klawitter said the first week of e-learning went well. NUACS currently has 190 students in Cathedral High School and 209 students in St. Anthony Elementary. Thanks to several donors, the school started the year with a 1:1 Chromebook program, which enabled both buildings to begin e-learning last week. The first week launched with only a few minor glitches that were quickly addressed.

Earlier in the month, Gov. Tim Walz gave schools a few days to prepare for distance learning before closing the schools. Each student was able to take home the necessary books and Chromebooks to prepare for online learning.

Klawitter said with the Chromebooks students are still able to attend class, but in a virtual environment. Teachers are able to use Zoom conference software or Google Hangout to organize classes. Special applications even allow students to write on Chromebooks to answer questions from the teacher. There is no need to transfer physical papers.

The equipment allows students to read a book as a class and then break off into smaller groups for discussion. Klawitter said this method is actually a great way to prepare students for college.

The Chromebooks also allow students to take part in physical education and music Class. Klawitter said P.E. students are given instructions for a physical activity and can record the activity on the Chromebook. In music and band classes, students are still able to perform together, but not the same room. The e-learning also gives teachers the option of selectively muting students to hear a single performance for better one-on-one feedback.

Since the Chromebook program started at the beginning of the year, students and teachers were already familiar with the technology.

Klawitter said everyone was able to move forward with e-learning and it was good timing to adopt the 1:1 Chromebook policy. Without it, the distance learning would have been more complicated.

The success of the Chromebook program can be seen by comparing this year to last school year. Klawitter said last year, the students were out of school for a week due to snow storms. Without the Chromebook program students had more work to make up when classes restarted, but this program gives the school an alternative.

The average school day remains relatively unchanged. Parents are still asked to call the school and sign out students if they are sick or unable to attend the online classes.

After the first week of e-learning, parents were asked to provide feedback in a survey. At Cathedral High School, the majority of survey results have been overwhelmingly positive with lots of encouragement to keep pushing forward and improving the process.

The kids admit to missing their teachers and friends during the lockout, but being able to conduct class by video has allowed them to see their teachers and other classmates.

Paul Hazuka, CHS Principal, said “parents have been appreciative of getting started, of connecting their children back into their education, and providing this new style of preparing students for their futures.”

“Some survey results pointed out the student development of time management skills, increased self-advocating, and self-accountability,” said Hazuka. “These are all good lessons and attributes that will help our students grow. There have been suggestions to keep our sense of community, continue praying for one another during these times, and praise for attempting to bring back a sense of normalcy in these very trying times. I’m proud to say that our Catholic schools can provide a safe and meaningful place to promote education whether in the classroom or over the internet.”

In the St. Anthony Elementary Building, 98.8% of the families reported they were able to connect to Google Classroom daily without issue; 81.5% of the families said they had no trouble using the online resources and links; and 95.7% of the parents said instructions were easy to follow for their children on Google Classroom.

St. Anthony Elementary is providing childcare for health care and first responders. Twenty-nine students are currently being provided childcare between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. St. Anthony Elementary is also a breakfast and lunch distribution site.

Shelly Bauer, SAE Principal, said:

“I am so proud of the work both our staff and students have done to prepare and launch the e-learning opportunity in order to keep moving forward with our academic journey. While we can not control what is going on, our goal is to ensure that we continue to keep things as normal as possible for our students. It has been wonderful to pop into many live Google Classrooms and to see the work the students are submitting to our staff. The students have been very serious about completing their daily work. Our staff and students are absolutely amazing!”


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