(Sentinel Photo by Kim Fickett) Pete Haefs, Principal of Gehlen Catholic High School, and Andrea Loutsch, Elementary Principal, stand in the heart of the school. The heart of the school recently underwent a $1.8 million renovation and expansion and will be ready on the first day of school on Wednesday, August 24.
MARCH — The days of summer are approaching and that can only mean one thing, the start of the school year is fast approaching.
At Gehlen Catholic, administration, teachers and staff are at full capacity for the first day of school on Wednesday, August 24.
“We often joke that we work through our summers, but it’s so exciting because of the work we do and what’s going on here in Gehlen. I just feel like we’re on a bridge of really exciting things that are going to happen and our kids are going to be really blessed by the work that our teachers and staff are doing. I think it’s an exciting time to be a Jay,” said Andrea Loutsch, Principal from kindergarten to 6th grade.
One of these exciting projects is the $1.8 million kitchen and cafeteria renovation and expansion project.
“Everything seems to be ready from day one,” Loutsch said. “We have a new cafeteria and we’re so excited to have it up and running. It’s such a beautiful space for our kids and it’s going to accommodate so many other kids. It’s a great place to have fun, eat and to share.
Although the project is on schedule, Loutsch and 7-12 principal Pete Haefs admitted there were hurdles to overcome.
“We had a lot of fun duds with it, but it all turns out fine in the end,” Haefs said.
“Yeah, a few pieces might not be exactly like what the final draft will be, but we’ll have lunch there and we’ll be fine,” Loutsch added.
While the Gehlen community will get a glimpse of the novelty during the open house on August 22, Haefs and Loutsch said plans are also underway for a formal open house for the entire community.
A welcome sign
In addition to the renovation project, another notable change will welcome students, parents and visitors to the school.
“Thanks to the generosity of the people at our prom last spring, we will be replacing our front doors and putting vinyl here to increase school spirit and provide a good vibe when people enter the school” , Haefs said.
Loutsch said the doors will be adorned with the Jays mascot.
“It will be hard when we think that there is our main entrance to miss us,” she added with a smile. “Plus, the extra security is also incredibly important to our families and students, so it will be a great asset for our children.”
The PK-12 Back-to-School Open House will welcome families from 4-6 p.m. on Monday, August 22.
“We will also be coordinating this with a tailgate celebration where people can grab a light meal, socialize and build excitement for the start of the school year. We are trying to get our families to come and have a party with them before school starts,” Haefs said.
In addition to the physical changes families will see at Gehlen, there will also be new additions to the program and staff.
“We were exceptionally blessed by a donor who donated for us to get a brand new reading series that follows the science of reading that our teachers started learning about this summer,” Loutsch said. “It’s been quite some time since we’ve had a new reading series this up to date and this is really going to help our TK-6 kids get to where they need to be.”
As a school as a whole, Haefs said they are initiating professional learning communities.
“It’s a formal collaborative model where teachers come together, talk to each other, and look at real data to figure out what our students need,” Haefs said. “At the secondary level, we do this process to get us started so that we can adopt a new curriculum to meet the needs of our current students. The big push for us rather than getting a specific program is actually having a nice database conversation about what our program currently provides and what gaps we need to fill for our students. It’s our goal this year to be able to identify that.
Gehlen is delighted to welcome eight new staff members to the family for the 2022-2023 school year.
At the elementary level, three teachers and a paraprofessional join us. Bridget Singer will join as a first-grade teacher, Andrea Altman and Ashley Koopman will join at the third-grade level, and Marcia Garcilazo will take on the paraprofessional role.
At the high school level, Gehlen welcomes Jeff Kramer as the school’s new athletic director, Beth McDermott-Ebert as the Spanish teacher, Josh Schreiner as the high school math teacher, and Jon De Jager as the high school math teacher. science in college.
Respond to student needs
As for the school calendar, Loutsch noted the addition of a few full professional development days.
“It’s about making sure our teachers get what they need to follow the direction in which they are heading professionally,” she said.
At the secondary level, a collaboration is underway with the schools of the Diocese of Sioux City to develop a common timetable.
“We collaborated with several other secondary schools in the diocese trying to build a common timetable for our first five periods. We, like all public and non-public schools, continue to have staffing challenges, so as high school administrators we said there might be a time when we can’t find teacher then wouldn’t it make sense to have a shared schedule so if Gehlen has a Spanish teacher but St. Mary’s doesn’t we run the same schedule so their students can attend live online with our instructor,” Haefs explained of the process.
“It’s just realizing that it’s probably going to be a need. We haven’t changed anything yet, but we’re having some real deep conversations about what it might look like, as we expect that at some point over the next few years, someone will take advantage of it.
Loutsch also noted at elementary they added an intervention block.
“It’s something our teachers have wanted for some time. It’s just being able to rearrange a bit what our schedules look like. So every day for 30 minutes our students get some of what they need. They may be participating in an ESL withdrawal program, getting extra help with reading or math, or enrichment help,” Loutsch said of the change.
Athletically, a new face will be seen leading the Lady Jays on the volleyball court this season.
Dan Goebel assumes the role of head coach following the retirement of longtime head coach Mike Meyer.
“He has quite a bit of experience working with the girls when they were younger, like at the AAU level. We’re really excited to have him as our head coach because we think the program will be in very good hands,” Haefs said.
Bring on the new year
For Haefs and Loutsch, they are ready to feel the energy of the building again with the sound of baby steps, laughter and camaraderie among friends.
“It’s when really positive energy starts to develop and you can feel it here at school. We created great momentum in the spring by unifying and uniting our purpose and becoming one school, one family,” Haefs explained. “I think this year is going to give us the time to be able to actualize that and do it together where we’re all pulling in the same direction and having good conversations with each other to make sure kids get what they need. so they can follow exactly what God has in mind for them.