The Rush City School District has been operating in the full distance learning model now for several weeks due to the city’s rise in COVID-19 test positivity.

Teachers have been working diligently and improving their daily virtual lessons, and the students are doing their best to stay engaged from home. Rush City Schools interim Superintendent Brent Stavig said on Nov. 30 that preparing lessons for distance learning is more demanding than the traditional way.

“But it’s harder to understand, because people don’t see the work,” Stavig said alluding to outside observers who don’t see the challenges teachers have had to face in recent times. “Because they’re not all together in a building.”

However, Stavig learned of one recent success story: “I ran into one of our paraprofessionals, ... she’s calling and checking in on every one of the special education students that she’s working with and helping them through any work or any troubles that they’re having.

“And she reported yesterday that for the first time, every single assignment was turned in and completed,” he continued. “And so, she was pretty excited about that the progress that her kids made during that last week.”

Teachers preparing virtual lessons

Stavig said he has encouraged many of the teachers to work from home if they can, but some have had to come to the school to create their lessons and use resources available there.

“They’re socially distanced,” Stavig said. “But our teachers, … they want to be in their rooms. … A science teacher wants to be able to show in the video … the different lab equipment and things that they’re doing and, you know, the same with … basically any of the hands-on or technical areas.”

Coronavirus relief

Stavig was very thankful for Chisago County donating about $49,496 of CARES Act money to the district, he said.

“Knowing that money was coming from the county we were able to buy another bus because we’ve added routes,” Stavig said, “so hopefully once we get back to busing, we can have kids a little bit more spread out. … We added three routes at the beginning of this year.”

With the CARES Act money, the district can also purchase and stockpile supplies such as personal protective equipment, cleaning materials, and plexiglass around workstations, Stavig said.

“Basically, whatever we need to do to ensure that our staff … feel safe and the environment that they have,” Stavig said. “I mean, that’s very critical for us to make sure that our staff feel comfortable and that we’re taking all the precautions we can.

“So definitely thankful for not only the financial contribution,” he continued, “but also very, very grateful for their expertise. … The weekly communications with their public health officials and helping us really dig in and understand the data at a local school district level.”

The district has received financial assistance from the CARES Act fund, which includes the Coronavirus Relief Fund and the Education Stabilization Fund, Stavig said. Part of the Education Stabilization Fund is called the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Fund, and the other is called the Governor Emergency Relief Fund, he said. The breakdown of allocations per fund to the district include:

• Governor Emergency Relief Fund: $9,370

• Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Fund: $78,004.

• Coronavirus Relief Fund, state portion: $215,903.

• Coronavirus Relief Fund, county portion: $49,496.

“I think the amount of money that … has been allocated … to the school district has thus far been pretty appropriate to date in supporting the additional expenses that we needed to purchase,” Stavig said.

School lunch during the pandemic

The district recently hired Food Service Director Sherry Stahlberg, and she has been doing an excellent job during the difficult times, Stavig said.

“The United States Department of Agriculture, extended a program through the end of the school year now where anyone 18 years of age or younger — they don’t even have to go to our school, it could be a family who is doing open enrollment to a different district … or it could be homeschooling their children — they’re eligible for free breakfast and lunch,” he said.

The food includes cold sandwiches, fruits, vegetables, milk, juice, bread and more that’s packaged ready for pick up on Wednesdays 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. at the Jacobson Elementary School, Stavig said.

“They have to notify one of the offices so that they have food prepared for them,” he said. “People can’t just show up.”

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