When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world in March 2020, the administration and faculty of De La Salle Collegiate quickly adapted to make sure classes would continue.
While many schools around the country prepared worksheets and pick-up assignments for students, the DLS Faculty went into “MASH” mode and classes continued - online - within days, using the Google Classroom virtual platform.
Technology Aids Virtual Learning
Principal Brother Ken Kalinowski and Assistant Principal Mr. Chris Dean credit the Information Technology Department. “Dennis Parks and Sheryl Anderson met with departments, figured out what to do, and how to use the available tools in our existing Google technology,” said Dean. “Within days the technology was expanded to include online streaming meeting options.”
In August 2020, DLS students returned to the building, and in-person learning. Except for some state-mandated school closures in late fall, students were back to “near-normal,” in a year themed by Principal Brother Ken Kalinowski as “faith-filled flexibility.” Faculty, staff, and students were all masked, and COVID symptom screening took place as students entered the building.
For those days when the building was closed, teachers utilized the virtual format.
Ready for 2021-2022 School Year
Brother Ken looks forward to the return to normal, for the 2021-2022 academic year, with some of the COVID modifications still in place.
“We really feel good about how we handled the past year,” said Dean. “When students walk in the door in August, there won’t be that steep learning curve of returning to the classroom. Our students were in the classroom.”
“For the fall, we are maximizing space, and setting up classrooms to accommodate no more than 25 students, ensuring some sort of social distancing,” said Brother Ken.
“We’ll continue to have hand sanitizer stations around the building. At this time, masks are not required, but guidelines are always in flux,” said Brother Ken. “Students must be clean-shaven.”
Brother Ken noted that cashless lunches are here to stay; parents can load their sons’ ID cards for use in the Cafeteria.
“We want to make sure everyone feels comfortable, but safe,” Brother Ken said.
“Parents can be confident that by and large, this is the safest place for their sons to be.”
Brother Ken noted that the summer camps have gone on without a hitch.
Director of Operations Mr. Joe Gerardi said the school is in the process of being deep-cleaned. “We are still maintaining protocols for a high level of sanitizing,” Gerardi said. He notes that the directional stickers on walls and floors have been removed, and the plastic shields have been placed in storage.
“Temperature taking will no longer be required for entry, but the main entrance will still have the monitor fully-functioning. Students will no longer be relegated to certain entrances based on class,” Gerardi said.
Pandemic “Classrooms” Gone, Traditional Schedule Returns
The school’s Band Room, TARMAC (Library), and Cafeteria became classrooms during 2019-2020, but are now back to their regular functions. The Commons will have its regular seating.
Homerooms will return to a grade-level basis, and the daily class schedule is returning to its pre-pandemic look.
Mr. Chris Dean, Assistant Principal, said that the special block scheduling will return to its original function: a schedule to be used for special events, such as all-school liturgies or assemblies.
“For 2021-2022, we are back to our seven-day rotating schedule,” Dean said. “Students will likely be able to return to their lockers between classes, and we don’t anticipate having to stagger class changes.”
Seeking Normal with Traditional, New Events
Dean was conscious of making sure as many “normal” events as possible took place over the 2020-2021 school year, even with restrictions regarding student attendance at sporting events. “This was particularly difficult when the school’s football and basketball teams made it to the state finals -- and no one was able to attend,” Dean said.
Despite restrictions, Dean sought a sense of continuity.
“At every opportunity, we tried to hold in-person events, and even added additional events during a trying school year. Among other things, we held National Honor Society inductions, the senior prom, all-school liturgies, and the annual Jeopardy competition. Our parents coordinated a pizza sale, in addition to having Coney Island and Chicken Shack food trucks. We even held a Halloween costume contest. All of these events were intended to bring the ‘normalcy’ that was so needed.”
Meeting the Mission
New Campus Minister Mr. John Berlin, who has taught Theology at DLS for several years, is ready for the return of retreats. Freshmen retreats will be in early September, using a local parish, and the Kairos retreats for upperclassmen will be offered in the fall and winter as retreat centers have opened.
Monsignor John Zenz from Holy Name (Birmingham) will be saying the opening school Mass on September 10, the Feast of the Holy Spirit.
The Mass is scheduled to be outdoors, on the St. John Baptist de La Salle Field, and parents are welcome.
Ready for Change
If there is a reversal in COVID numbers, Brother Ken says the school is ready. “ We will be prepared to pivot back to last year’s protocols very quickly.”
Brother Ken notes that there are nearly 20 transfer students, including seniors.
“It is unusual to accept seniors,” Brother Ken said. “But this is a different time. We are ensuring our Lasallian mission of meeting boys and families where they are at, and taking them to the next level.”