When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, schools in Minnesota and the country found themselves in an unprecedented situation – what to do?
The distance learning model seemed to be the best way to ensure the safety of students, teachers and staff; schools were closed for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.
While public schools have decided to maintain the distance education model at the start of the 2020-21 school year, most private schools have chosen to reintegrate their students into the classroom.
One of the first to open in Minnesota was Hill-Murray School in Maplewood, a private Catholic school for grades 6 to 12.
“Our management team worked tirelessly throughout the past summer with a lot of planning, hard work and confidence. We had the kids back to school on August 18, ”said Melissa Dan, President of Hill-Murray. “The teachers were nervous about coming back, but they took a risk and believed in us. We only stayed open all year due to their willingness to put kids first.
Dan has a son who is dating Hill-Murray. When they went to the in-person learning in August, she said she noticed a big change in him.
“The changes I saw in him from March until he could be in school every day were just amazing,” she said. “The students have never looked happier when they come back in August. Even though they had to wear masks and follow COVID guidelines, they were so happy to be with their friends again. “
Enrollment has grown at Hill-Murray over the past six years, and Dan said last year interest in the school has grown more than ever. She believes parents may not have viewed Hill-Murray as an educational option before the pandemic.
“As the public school districts did not open last fall, we had an incredible influx of people trying to enter the school in August and September. Unfortunately some of the classes were already full so we couldn’t take all the students who wanted to come, ”she said.
Why the increase in enrollment in private schools? According to the Minnesota Department of Education, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, families across the state made choices they believed were best for their students, including delaying entry to kindergarten for the youngest. Some have considered non-public options. There has been an increase in the number of parents who have chosen a private school for their children; Additionally, a 12.4% increase in kindergarten enrollment occurred between the 2019-2020 and 2020-21 school years.
Principal Vicki Marvin of St. Odilia School – a private Catholic school in Shoreview for kindergarten to grade eight students – said the school has definitely seen an increase in enrollment.
“We usually have a handful of families contacting us for registration, but last summer we had over a hundred new families in the choir,” Marvin said. “We welcomed 60 new transfer students over the summer for the 2020-21 school year and 100% of them are re-enrolled for this upcoming school year, and that’s exciting.”
Marvin also said she believes parents realize they have other educational options besides public school for their children.
“I think for some families who maybe weren’t sure whether or not to choose a private school, it was enough for them to say, ‘We really want our kids to come back to school in person, and we’re going to try- the, ”Marvin said. “I think they found they were very happy with the experience and aren’t looking for something different for next year. I also think it has to do with the pandemic, because parents really wanted their kids to go back to school for a combination of reasons. “
These reasons, Marvin said, include the fact that the staff at St. Odilia School see the child as a whole person – encompassing his academics, his life of faith, his character development, his relationships and his skills. relationships.
“Our students benefit from a strong academic program here that prepares them for the next steps they take (for high school),” she said. “When their children came home from school, I think parents could not only see the difference in their children, but also feel the difference. “
No matter how you look at it, public and private schools have faced huge changes throughout the pandemic. Dan said she has been involved in public and private education for 20 years, and she will remember it last year for the rest of her life.
“I am proud of what many private and Catholic schools have done by putting children first. Children cannot stay at home for a year – they have to be with their teachers and learn. We were in person all year round and we had no more cases of COVID than schools that were taking distance education, ”Dan said. “The power of good teachers, of relationships and of being in person with each other is something that is really important and appreciated. “
St. Odilia and Hill-Murray both have waiting lists for the 2021-22 school year, but there are limited openings for certain years.