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'It Won't Be Normal': Waiting List Grows For North St. Paul Catholic School With In-Person Classes

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A private Catholic school in North St. Paul has built up a waiting list for enrollment with families who don't want to start the year in hybrid or distance learning.

St. Peter Catholic School will be opening for in-person learning. Principal Alison Dahlman says only serving 140 families allows their decision making to be more nimble than a larger school or district might be.

"It won't be normal, but it'll certainly be in-person, on campus," Dahlman said.

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That's exactly what Jami Chapman wants for her son, Marshall, who will be starting kindergarten. She and her husband both work.

"It really would take somebody dedicated to work with [Marshall] during distance learning, and I don't know what we would do," Chapman said. "It would be a struggle."

Older students will no longer move around for class periods. Instead, the teachers will rotate between rooms. David Heintz teaches fifth and sixth grade.

"[Students will] leave for a few specialists, but we're really trying to cut down on the amount of travel outside their own class," Heintz said.

He has removed all unnecessary furniture from the classroom in order to give as much space between students' desks as possible.

"For now, this is what we're asked to do, so we are doing it," he said.

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Students will even be assigned a door to come in and out of the building.

"The stairwell that they enter is like their stairwell, so everyone will be operating in these kinds of columns throughout the day, so movement will be controlled and minimized," Dahlman said.

The principal says all of these measures have contributed to families calling her wanting to enroll. There are still some open spots.

Heintz says all the teachers are on board with beginning the year with in-person learning.

"We realize the reality of this pandemic, but we also don't want to be paralyzed by fear," he said.

The school will undergo regular cleanings and frequent disinfecting. At recess, kids won't be intermingling with students from other classes.

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