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Ready for class: Pacelli ready for school year as it welcomes all classes back

Kane Malo had a rather auspicious welcome to the world of administration when he assumed the role of principal at Pacelli Catholic School.

March 16 was Malo’s first day and at the same time it was announced schools in Minnesota would transfer to distance learning because of the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic.

“The idea was to come in and get the feel of the school and how things are run,” Malo said. “Really start to teach the teachers and kids how the school works.”

“How are we going to do distance learning?” Malo continued, describing how Pacelli was going to adapt. “It was a big learning curve. Becoming an administrator is always a learning curve, but in the world of COVID, it just makes the curve bigger.”

Five months later and Malo and the rest of Pacelli are getting ready for the beginning of their 2020-21 school year on Aug. 31.

“All things considered we are in a good spot,” Malo said. “We continue to move forward.”

From the beginning, Pacelli’s challenges were no different from their public schools peers. Suddenly, they were forced to deal with the changes in delivering education and the safety of their students.

Once the school year came to an end, planning shifted to the upcoming year. Pacelli’s plans falls under the umbrella guidance of the Winona Diocese, and other dioceses in the state of Minnesota, which have come together to work out one direction.

Under this plan, that calls for social distance, sanitization and the rest of the familiar safety steps, schools can also take steps they feel are necessary for their own schools.

“Individual schools in the dioceses can do what’s best for their school under that umbrella,” Malo said.

Pacelli administration met throughout the summer to come up with a plan for their own school reopening and they determined that they could open fully, kindergarten through 12th grade.

But it’s not something so simple as throwing wide the doors and welcoming people back into their building.

“We’re as ready as we can be in the situation we have,” Malo said. “We spent a lot of time this summer really going through and figuring out ways to follow safety protocols.”

All grades will be in school throughout the day, but the classes will still be minimized to avoid large numbers of students in one room.

This includes using the Pacelli Auditorium and music room for regular classes, but Pacelli also has another advantage. In recent years, all grades were shifted to one building, leaving the former elementary side empty. This gave the school another option, as some classes will be shifted back to the elementary.

Class sizes themselves also allow Pacelli to take the steps of fully reopening to in-class learning. Right now, Malo estimates around 320 students at Pacelli this year with a class size average of 18 students.

“We don’t have the (large) number of bodies going down the hallways,” Malo said. “We’re able to use our site as an advantage.”

What also lends itself to preparing is an ongoing relationship with Austin Public Schools, a sort of continuation of Malo’s time at Ellis Middle School, from where he was before Pacelli.

Malo was able to take part in meetings over the summer with APS, allowing for an exchange of ideas.

“They invited me over to be part of those (meetings).” Malo said. “What might work, what won’t work.”

In the face of so many disruptions, Malo is feeling confident looking ahead to the new year.

For Pacelli’s new principal, it’s going to be a nice change getting to know families rather than getting to know a coronavirus.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting the families more face to face and really getting to know the true identity of Pacelli and continue to grow the Pacelli family brand,” Malo said. “You really get to know the families and kids. I can’t wait to see that.”