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Back to school for Rugby has a different look

By Staff | Aug 22, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Jaydn Odden (left) and his sister, Bailey, have their masks and other supplies ready for their first day of school. Classes begin Aug. 26 for Rugby Public and Little Flower Catholic schools.

Families with students in the Rugby Public School District are adding masks and hand sanitizers to this year’s school supply list and making sure their wi-fi works.

However, despite these small modifications to their children’s routines, many parents report their students look forward to going back to school.

Classes at both Ely Elementary School and Rugby High School will be held four days a week instead of five, but many families say their children are excited to see their friends and teachers again after a global pandemic ended their on-campus studies last March.

Rugby High senior Tesha Sobolik said she expected the new school year to be close to normal. “It’ll just be different with having four classses a day instead of eight, and being in the classroom longer will be different.”

Sobolik said she looks forward to participating in sports this year.

“I’m involved in basketball, then in the spring, I do softball and track,” she said.

Sobolik said the basketball team had limited practice activities in the summer, mostly to allow for team members who play volleyball to prepare for their fall season.

Among the changes for Sobolik and her fellow Rugby High students will be a block schedule, where four longer class periods are held each day instead of eight shorter periods. The first four classes on the schedule will be held Mondays and Wednesdays, while periods five through eight will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays. Friday classes will take place online to give staff a chance to deep-clean the campus.

Sobolik said her sister, Marnell is a sixth grader at Ely Elementary School. Classes at Ely will be held Monday through Thursday as well, with Fridays devoted to online instruction.

“I haven’t really talked to her much about it. I’m sure she just wants to get back to school and see all her friends,” Sobolik said of her sister.

“After being locked up for awhile, I definitely want to go back,” Sobolik added, describing how she felt staying home for five months.

Travis Risovi, a counselor at Ely Elementary, has five children. Four attend Rugby schools.

“We want to make back to school as normal as possible, just reminding our kids to be smart about things and making sure we wash our hands and making sure we do social distancing,” Risovi said of his children. “We make sure we understand the guidelines and the rules and making sure we know why they’re there and why we have them, but not to be afraid of them.”

Risovi said he and his wife, Corinne, who teaches fifth grade at the elementary school, want their children “just to be mindful of (the COVID pandemic) and respect everybody’s point of view on it.”

“It’s just one of those things with education at home. We do those things at school when we’re teaching, and then when we’re home, we’re just teaching kids why we’re doing it and making them understand this is how it is right now and if we all follow the guidelines and we all do our best to do our part, things will get better,” Risovi said.

“That’s how we’re approaching it with our kids; not having them be scared but having them try to understand and be educated on it and understand what we need to do and why we need to do it,” Risovi added.

“I have a sophomore, an eighth grader, a sixth grader, a third grader and a one year old,” Risovi said of his children.

Risovi said his school age children are “super excited to get back to a little bit of normalcy. Just the facts of going back and seeing the faces of all their peers and seeing that life is a little bit more normal getting up in the morning and going to school I don’t think they realized how much they enjoyed it and how much it’s a good time of life when you’re in elementary and high school.”

Describing the children’s feelings about last year’s abrupt end, Risovi said, “You were with your friends and you were with your teachers and life was enjoyable, until that was taken away.”

“Now, they’re excited to get back to that daily routine of seeing their friends and being at the school building, and honestly, having teachers there to help them get work done,” he said.

“They realized how important teachers were during that time, too,” he added.

Risovi said his family shopped online for some school supplies this year. Among the supplies he purchased were masks with Minnesota Twins and Vikings logos for his sons.

“My daughter, Annie, she’s the oldest, she’s the sophomore,” Risovi said. “She and my wife went online and picked out patterns they thought looked nice. They each have a week’s supply of the masks,” Risovi said of his school age children.

“My daughter is super social and she’s looking forward to getting back to see her peers, getting back and being together with her peers,” Risovi said. “She’s looking forward to the friendships she has and being together with friends every single day. That’s what she’s excited about, and the fact that she likes to learn from her teachers.”

Risovi said of last spring’s online-only instruction, “(Teachers) did the very best they could but nothing can replace actually having your teacher right there if you need to ask a question or need to understand something better, so Annie’s looking forward to getting back to that, too.”

Risovi said Annie looked forward to playing volleyball with the Panthers this fall, and her brother, Tatum, looked forward to middle school sports and activities.

Annie and other Panther volleyball team members faced the cancellation of their summer camp this year, so they practiced in the farm shop belonging to the family of their teammate, Brooke Anderson.

Brooke attends Rugby High School while her brother, Cole, attends Rugby Middle School. Their mother, Kim, is principal at Little Flower Catholic School in Rugby.

“Cole will be playing football this fall,” Anderson said of her eighth grader.

Anderson said her children have their supplies ready for school. “They know the supplies they need and like to use,” Anderson said.

“We have a great supply of masks,” Anderson added. “We have had friends who have made us quite a few to make sure that I am as safe as possible,” she noted.

Anderson takes precautions to guard her health as she battles cancer.

“My family is really not afraid of COVID as we are use to having to take precautions all the time to avoid different illnesses,” Anderson said.

Anderson said students in Rugby public and private schools will receive Chromebook laptops for use in online instruction.

“My children have devices at home so they have been able to handle online learning, however, we all prefer five days a week of in-person learning,” Anderson said.

Rugby Public School librarian Jessica Fritz said her three sons, who attend Rugby High and Ely Elementary, are also preparing for school.

“They have a routine, but they’re boys, too, so they have questions,” Fritz said.

Fritz said her sons ask her, “‘What’s going to happen? How is this going to look? Do we still get our recess?’ Those are the things that the boys are always asking. My youngest is going to be a first grader. He’s nervous because he only got to do part of his kindergarten year. He says, ‘I don’t remember where this teacher, or these classrooms are. How am I going to do that?'”

“There are lots of little things. I keep reassuring them. tell them it’s going to be okay,” Fritz said.

“They get to do an open house for first grade, so that will help,” she said of her youngest child’s nervousness.

Fritz said her first grader “wants to start practicing wearing a mask so he’ll know what it’s like. He goes with me if we’re running an errand and he says, ‘Okay, Mom, are we going to wear a mask?'”

“If I say I’m going to the store, he says, ‘Okay, I have to wear a mask, so I’m coming with,'” she added.

“He’s kind of starting to get that anxious feeling that (says), ‘We’re practicing so this is what I need to do,” Fritz noted. “The older two are just like, ‘whatever.'”

Fritz said her oldest, a sophomore at Rugby High, is preparing for block scheduling and modified activities such as cross country and band.

“He’ll only have four classes each day, so the classes are going to be set up so he’s got a couple of hard classes each day, spread out (over the week),” Fritz said. “There’s still that reassurance that, ‘yes, you can still do some of these things. You can go here and do (an activity), but don’t loiter in the hallways. If you have to get something from another teacher, you can still do that, but it just might be different.”

“He’s a percussionist, so he doesn’t have to wear a special mask for band; he just needs to wear his regular mask. They’re going to have most of their practices in the auditorium so they can spread out more.”

“They’re going to do three small groups per week and then rotate,” Fritz said of the band classes. “So, they’ll have band one or two days per week instead of five days per week like they used to.”

The children of Bruce and Maribel Odden were busy gathering school supplies the week before school.

Maribel Odden said her four children, Riley, Hailey, Bailey and Jaydn “all bought masks” ahead of their new school year.

Riley, a sophomore at Rugby High, was also busy practicing for his season as a cross-country runner for the Panthers.

Hailey, a student at the North Dakota School for the Deaf in Devils Lake, anticipated returning to school Aug. 26, the same day as her siblings in Rugby.

Bailey Odden said, “I’m going to junior high seventh grade.” Bailey said online classes were “okay, I guess.” Bailey said although she missed her friends when studying at home, she added, “I like (classes) at home on the computer better.”

Jaydn Odden, who will attend Ely Elementary, said he preferred being at school with his friends.

“It was good,” Jaydn said of his studies at Ely. “I like art.”

Bailey Odden, whose favorite class is math, said she wasn’t sure when she’d have to wear masks at school, but she had her red mask ready. “My glasses are going to get really foggy (with a mask on),” Bailey said.

When asked if the she was anxious to go back to school, Bailey shrugged.

Jaydn, however, smiled and answered with a loud “yes.”

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