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Back-to-School Days

Blog Post & Photos by Sister Patrice Colletti, SDS
Kateri Initiative – Sisseton, South Dakota

Elementary Main Hallway – Banners display the school’s Dakota values

If you’re like me, seeing the piles of lined paper, the tubs of pencils or pens, and the line-up of colorful lunch boxes at “back to school” sales can still bring a happy sigh. This past week, children returned to the tribal school where I teach. 

For some, it was their first time back since Covid began, if their family chose remote learning during the last school year. For all, there was clear excitement, not at all dampened by masks, as they off-loaded the buses and came rushing into the building, new sneakers and new bookbags proclaiming the “new year.”

Gravity seems to have a particular impact on mask wearing. Social distancing in our overcrowded school does not exist. They “upgraded” the ventilation system this summer: in the morning, my classroom is now hot and stuffy; in the afternoon, the temps trend downward, so that I need to pull on a jacket or sweatshirt as the afternoon passes.

Currently, all of the K through 5 grade kids are unvaccinated. I wear an N-95 mask, cinched tightly, and I wash my hands continuously. Given the Delta variant’s level of contagiousness, we know the next week will likely bring a bunch of positive Covid tests and numerous quarantines. That’s our “new normal,” I guess. I’m hoping to not catch Covid, or if/when I do, to have no or few symptoms. That’s the promise of the vaccines, anyway. I also plan to be one of the first in line for the “booster” shots, whenever they make their way out to our reservation.

Students “more or less” wear masks

In the meantime, I am planning for high interest, hands on Math activities for my two Grade 5 math classes. I’m also looking forward to science, tech, and math activities such as “Make your own Ice Cream” with the Kindergarteners, Dinos and Other Ancient Things with Grades 2 and 3, and Build a Roller Coaster (Gr. 4)! Stay tuned for photos as those hands-on lessons are implemented! This school year promises to be fun!

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