Grand Island Central Catholic students and teachers were able to close out the school year this week at the school’s end-of-year checkout.

Principal Jordan Engle said seniors picked up their materials and dropped off their textbooks and Chromebooks on Tuesday, while the rest of the student body did so on either Wednesday or Thursday. They were divided into two groups based on their last name.

Engle said there were 30 seniors who came to the checkout on Tuesday, and 120 students each on Wednesday and Thursday.

During the materials return Thursday, students drove into the circle drive in front of the school, parked and dropped off their textbooks and Chromebooks. Teachers then gave them bags filled with items that were in their lockers.

In March, when GICC first closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Engle said no one anticipated it would remain closed through the end of the year, so students only gathered what they needed for e-learning. He said most students left things in their lockers, so the school worked to get students their personal belongings during the checkout this week.

“The students also drove around back and got into the locker rooms because we were not going to clean those out,” Engle said. “That is their job to do. So they are able to get into their gym lockers and make sure those are cleaned out as well.”

Engle said teachers helped with the checkout in shifts, with eight teachers helping at a time. He added they worked in shifts to minimize the amount of foot traffic in the building.

“I think it has just been good for our teachers to see each other,” Engle said. “You hear them cackling with each other out there (in the lobby). It has been fun to get together because we all like each other.”

Engle said teachers and students were able to say goodbye to each other during the checkout. He said this was good for educators as it provided them with a proper closure to the school year.

“That closure is not just a metaphor or a cliche,” Engle said. “You really do need to have that closure for the school year. It has been good for the kids and teachers to get that.”

He added: “We gave them a hard time when they come in. We just teased them a little bit, asked them how they have been doing and told them to have a good summer. It was a highlight for them and that is what they told us, too. They really miss school and being able to see each other and their teachers.”

Dee Hanssen, a GICC religion teacher and campus youth minister, said it was “so great” to see some of her students Thursday and to visit with a few of her colleagues.

“We spend more time with these kids than we do our own, so it is a great way to touch base with them even though we can’t get close,” she said. “We waved and, for one student, it was her birthday, so we made sure we said ‘happy birthday.’ We were able to see a few teachers together, too, and we needed that for closure and to make us feel a bit normal again.”

As a 25-year educator, Hanssen said she considers herself an “old-school teacher,” but has since learned to embrace technology with the move to e-learning the past two months.

“I did not do a lot with technology before, but I am one of the few that has loved being online with my students,” she said. “With religion, they feel more free to talk about their beliefs without their peers sitting right next to them. I am going to change the way I teach because I have seen so many wonderful things come out of my students.”

Engle said that while the end of the school year is surreal and that the transition into summer “doesn’t feel like much” due to teachers and students being quarantined at home, he hopes they have a good summer and are prepared to resume in-person learning in August.

“It is weird and we are really praying that by the time August comes around, we can be back to some type of in-person instruction,” Engle said.

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