By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
DEWITT — Classroom set-up was a family affair for two St. Joseph Catholic School teachers this year.
To allow more room for social distancing, Emily Mack’s second-grade class moved upstairs to the music room. Jayne Riedesel’s kindergarten classroom moved to the parish hall. The women said the beginning of the school year is always a little stressful, but the move, combined with the ongoing pandemic and power outages from the derecho storm Aug. 10 compounded that stress. Add to that an ill-timed injury that left Mack with a broken wrist just as she was about to begin moving her classroom and preparing decorations.
COVID concerns limited the pool of potential helpers, said principal Sharon Roling. For example, incoming eighth-graders traditionally help teachers with classroom set-up. Still, the women had one resource the pandemic couldn’t take away: the loving dedication of their husbands and children.
Matt Mack helped his wife with “hand-tedious” tasks, since her wrist cast limits her range of motion. There were boxes to unpack and many decorations, bulletin boards and calendars to create. Emily Mack typed and printed name tags and other decorations for her “Home Sweet Classroom,” while Matt cut out the paper items and attached them to the walls. He also assembled and hung white and yellow paper lanterns. The couple’s 3-year-old daughter, Charlotte, helped by moving carts and books.
“He just knew I needed help,” Emily Mack said of her husband’s willingness to assist with classroom set-up. Roling said the duo, who have been married for four years, made an “awesome team.”
For Riedesel, moving from a classroom to a parish hall required a lot of adjusting. Kindergartners usually sit at tables, but social distancing requires the use of spaced-out desks. The school had extra desks on hand, but they needed to be moved from the garage to the parish hall. Riedesel’s husband, Jason, and adult sons, Nicholas and Levi, completed that task with assistance from school janitor Enrique Acevedo.
Jayne Riedesel quickly realized the desks were too tall for kindergartners. They were adjustable, but the task was time-consuming. With a screwdriver and a steady hand, Levi Riedesel, 18, shortened the desks.
Twenty-something son Nicholas Riedesel repurposed mobile stage flats he’d painted during his days at St. Joe’s; they were still in storage and offered increased wall space in the makeshift classroom, his mother said. “They were used as props when he was in eighth grade.”
Jayne Riedesel’s 14-year-old daughter, Elizabeth Riedesel, helped with decorating and aide Amy Pierce offered assistance with decorating and moving furniture around the room.
When it came time to start school Aug. 24, the classrooms were ready to welcome new students. Roling lauded the teachers’ families for helping make that possible. “It was a family effort to create positive, colorful and welcoming learning environments.”