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Schools adapt to provide activities after the bell

Schools are working to make extracurricular activities available while keeping students' health top of mind.

MINNEAPOLIS — Many things have changed this school year. The first thing we think about is the classroom and distance learning, but it doesn’t stop there. Sports have switched seasons, clubs have gone digital and pretty much all after school activities have morphed in one way or another.

Amid the pandemic it’s challenging to forge ahead with these programs and activities. Sports like football and volleyball have moved from fall to spring, while Farmington High Teacher Rachel Baumann says other activities have gone virtual. 

“Theater did online auditions for the fall musical, so I think the more established programs or the programs that are able to do things virtually, have been trying to do that," says Baumann.

District Director of Student Activities at Hopkins Public Schools Dan Johnson says protocols have been put in place to make sure extra-curricular activities continue. “Our district recognizes the importance of the after-school activities and is very supportive of them," he says.

Baumann, who also coaches debate, acknowledges local and national tournaments will be online or virtual. But for in-person practice, she’s modified the set-up to separate debaters and respect social distancing guidelines. 

“My plan is to break out into different classrooms so that I can move in-between rooms as necessary. I’m going to be relying on my captains a lot more to help co-ordinate some of the drills and coaching activities that we do.”

Most kids are happy to do what’s needed to be able to see their peers in-person. Baumann says the smiles are contagious. “This is something that they want to do, and so they’re really able and willing to problem solve to try to make it work in whatever way it’s going to work," she says.

However, there’s an adjustment period with all the program changes, and Johnson admits it’s not easy and doesn’t happen instantly.

“The hard part on our campus is making all those pegs fit in the right holes. We’re going out today, for instance, to put markings in our stadium where people can actually sit or stand," he says.

All of it being done after the final bell has rung, so students can have the most rewarding high school experience possible says Baumann. “As coaches and directors, we’re trying to help the kids have as much access to the opportunities that they enjoy, and they want to have in the situation that we are required to live under.”