Principal outlines her goals for the year

Mrs. Barthel expresses Covid concerns, previews J-term


Izzy Marasco

Principal Mrs. Julie Barthel participated in a presser with the newspaper staff on Aug. 20 during E period in Loretto 2214. Barthel outlined her goals for the school year and previewed J-term, which will take place in January.

Ashlynn Bakemeyer, Co-Editor-in-Chief

After last year’s various Covid-related limitations, from one-way hallways and construction zones to masks and social distancing, the Hill is ready to shift back into normalcy, while also embracing new features.  

“I think it’s been a great start,” said Principal Mrs. Julie Barthel during a presser with the newspaper staff during the first full week of the school year.  “I was pretty nervous with the Covid numbers at the end of the summer. I thought we may have to go back to a lot more restrictions, but I was glad we were able to make our own decisions here.”

One of the additions to the Hill includes the new dining hall. “We have a new cafeteria, which is a blessing, but trying to figure out schedules, making sure we balanced it and having enough food was difficult,” said Barthel. While the new dining area is complete, there is still construction taking place in the Innovation Center, including the classrooms. Barthel said, “Right now we’re using the Baker boardroom as a classroom, that won’t need to happen once the new classrooms open up.” 

Other features of the completed construction of the Innovation Center include “outdoor furniture for outside the cafeteria, benches that will go against the window, high top tables and three fire pits,” said Barthel. 

Sept. 13 celebration

The goal for the definite completion of construction is Sept. 13, Cathedral’s birthday. “We’re going to have a huge celebration for that. Everything will be done by then, including the grass in the courtyard,” the principal said.

Barthel was able to confirm one rumor going around involving a coffee shop on campus that will allow students to never have to worry about forgetting their coffee at home. “In a year we hope to have a student-run coffee shop in the (Shiel Student Life Center),” Barthel said. The entrepreneurship and three sectors classes worked together to come up with business plans for the student-run coffee shop last year, and Barthel added that she hopes classes can coordinate more projects together. “How can we use other classes here to support each other?” Barthel proposed. 

In addition to classes working with each other, Barthel said she hopes students will be able to support one another as well. This year service hours are going to be more attainable by encouraging students to focus more on using their God-given gifts to do good, rather than just doing whatever possible to get service hours completed. 

Barthel said, “My biggest hope is always that Cathedral High School students are known for using their gifts and talents to help others, whether we’re helping our school, helping our city or helping the world get better. I want to have more opportunities, as far as the administration goal, to do that in class. You’re going to hear more teachers in your classes talk about service learning. Service is where you do more service outside of the school. I would like more service opportunities built in the classroom, so it matches what you’re already doing in the curriculum and it’s also serving others.

“For example, a Spanish class could translate a newsletter for a local elementary school. They were already going to be working on Spanish skills, but now they’re using those skills to help someone else,” Barthel said. 

For the underclassmen, Barthel said that one of the key philosophies school administrators are trying to spread is “did you touch somebody with service today?” Barthel said that by following this example, service will become a more natural way of student life, rather than just another item to cross off the to-do list. 

Top priority: To stay in school

After the pandemic forced the school to close campus last year, Barthel stated the importance of staying open and in school.  “My Number-1 job is for us to stay in school. We always have to monitor the numbers and what’s going on outside the school to see its impact,” Barthel said. Unlike last year when schools were required to look at the rising Covid-19 numbers of the entire state, Barthel said, “We’re looking at our school’s (Covid-19) numbers, which is different than last year. (The state) is letting schools look at their individual numbers.” 

In case of an instance when the Covid-19 numbers affecting students and teachers on campus start to rise, Barthel said, “We’re ready with all those things we had in place last year. If we need to eat in classrooms again, if we need to do one-way hallways, all those things would not be great, but if they keep us in school, then we will do that.”

Although the campus is currently open and mask optional this school year, Barthel said, “We want you guys all to bring a mask in your backpacks in case we need to gather in the gym, maybe for an assembly or for Mass when we can’t go outside. We’re going to wear masks for that. That will be 1,400 people closer than three feet for more than 15 minutes.”

Additionally, the school is not requiring students or teachers to get the Covid-19 vaccine. “We’re a school. We educate kids. We want to keep you safe, but that’s such a personal decision with families for their own health,” Barthel said about the decision not to mandate the vaccine.

Barthel also wants to give all students an opportunity to make decisions. In previous years, freshmen had certain restrictions such as eating lunch only in the cafeteria. But Barthel stated that those restrictions would not be enforced from now on. “My philosophy is that I like to give everybody a chance—including freshmen—to make good choices,” said Barthel. 

All students will have an important choice to make in October. The new J-term will be implemented at the beginning of the second semester. Barthel said, “In October, once we get the list of what the teachers want to offer, you’re going to have a preview day. You will choose three things and you’re going to be in the classroom a couple hours for each of the three things you chose.” After the preview day, students will choose one of the three classes that they enjoyed the most. Then students will spend what the principal called  “two weeks immersed in that class.”

Purpose of the new J-term

Barthel explained the purpose of J-term, saying, “It is an opportunity for students to explore something that they don’t have time to fit into their normal schedule. It’s also an opportunity for teachers to branch out and teach something they haven’t taught before. It can expose you to something that you’ve never tried or something that you love and want to go deeper into it and you don’t normally have time to. It’s limitless.”

One of the factors that led the administrators to incorporate the J-term was the fact that “kids are motivated — and adults — by choice,” Barthel said. To correlate with the emphasis the school places on service, Barthel said that “every J-term class will have service opportunities.”

A majority of J-term classes will not count toward a student’s GPA. But Barthel said that it is a possibility that some courses will work with colleges to provide credit options, in which case, the GPA will be affected. 

Barthel said that AP class schedules will not be heavily altered by the J-term schedule. “Sometimes stopping to take a break might be nice,” said Barthel, and added that some teachers may offer help during the evening or office hours. “It’s not always about the number of minutes in a class, but what you do with those minutes,” Barthel said.

Barthel said that because of the novelty surrounding J-term will cause trial and error, but all in all she said, “I’m super excited about it.”

The school has been faced with countless challenges in recent years, but Barthel said she could not be happier with how the students and teachers are handling the constant changes. Barthel said, “Cathedral is a special place. I’m very proud to be the principal, I’m proud of our teachers and I’m proud of our students.”

Editor’s note: Reporter Meg Hasch contributed to this story.