Visit students at home, bring cheer, educational items
By Dan Russo
GUTTENBERG — Catholic school teachers in Guttenberg recently demonstrated that they could give Amazon’s door-to-door delivery service a run for its money. With most educational institutions closed due to COVID-19, the faculty of St. Mary-Immaculate Conception School System, based in Guttenberg, recently organized a caravan of vehicles that made stops at students’ homes.
On April 10, with the school’s mascot in tow, the teachers dropped off Easter crafts, candy and cookies, along with math, reading and writing materials.
“We visited three communities within our school district; I think a total of 27 houses,” explained Erin Schmelzer, office manager for the school.
The teachers maintained the recommended social distance, while still creating a great opportunity to boost everyone’s spirits.
“All of us had a renewed sense of connection with our students and families as many parents were at home,” reflected Joanne Hedemann, principal of St. Mary-Immaculate Conception School. “The joy that was evident on the faces of children and teachers was really sweet and very special. Those bonds that our staff has with all children goes deep. Parents were so grateful for the visit.”
Schools across Iowa closed in March. Like many around the nation, the Catholic school system that serves preschool through eighth-grade youth in Guttenberg, North Buena Vista and surrounding communities has adapted. The system is offering educational opportunities in new ways and continuing with “grab and go” food distribution for its students in need.
“I think it has been hard not to be together,” said Hedemann. “… however, as you can see, we are finding ways to connect and do it in a responsible manner.”
As soon as the school closed, preschool teacher Elizabeth Wolfe started a resource page online, according to the principal. Parents have a login, and teachers send Wolfe items to put on the page, meant to support “continuous learning” at home. Meals are available Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m.-noon for pick up from the school cafeteria.
“We are serving around 48 breakfasts and lunches each day,” said Hedemann. “The response has been good, and we are hoping it increases.”
In the first nine days of the shutdown, St. Mary-Immaculate Conception staff distributed 500 meals, according to Hedemann. She and other personnel hope to continue to educate and support students and their families.
“These are unprecedented times,” said Hedemann. “We have to work harder to connect with students while honoring the limitations that present in our new normal, including being respectful of privacy of life at home.”
COVER PHOTO: A school teacher from St. Mary-Immaculate Conception School in Guttenberg joins the school’s mascot during a visit to a student’s home. The faculty brought educational materials and treats to many homes April 10. (Contributed photo)