What seemed generally expected was confirmed April 23 when Gov. Tim Walz announced that all of Minnesota’s public schools would remain closed for the duration of the academic year.
The governor had initially ordered a two-week closure of the state’s public schools beginning March 18 when Minnesota counted just 35 cases of COVID-19 and zero deaths due to that disease.
As cases mounted day by day, Walz extended that initial order through May 4. Now, some 900,000 public school children around the state will be finishing out the year through distance learning.
“We recognize the challenges that come with this delivery model, and we appreciate everything our families are doing to support their students’ education while navigating their own obstacles,” said Kevin Borg, Westonka Schools superintendent, in his online Borg Report.
The district had recently conducted its own survey of how distance learning was playing out for its students and received a largely positive response: few technology snags and good communication from teachers and administration, the survey results showed.
Specific details around spring events, including commencement for the district’s graduating seniors, were still up in the air as of April 28, and Borg said in his report that parents and students should be receiving more information on these as administrators make decisions on if and how certain events are either rescheduled or moved online.
Some things have already been cancelled outright. There will be no spring athletics season this year, a decision that came down from the Minnesota State High School League.
Westonka’s May and early June events will also not be held as scheduled, at least not in person, although they may be rescheduled or moved to an online format. So, too, for the district’s community education classes.
This year’s graduating class at Mound Westonka High School “overwhelmingly supported a flexible date plan for graduation that prioritizes an in-person ceremony,” said Borg in his report.
Commencement was originally scheduled for May 29 but has been postponed to a tentative June 25. Alternatively, Borg assured that the graduation ceremony would go forward either virtually at the least, or in-person if possible, on July 23.
The district is also working through how and when to hold a drop-off for the iPods, Chromebooks and mobile hotspots that its students have by now come to rely on for every facet of their learning over the past month and a half.
“Regardless if our school campuses are physically open or closed, we will continue to care for our students in every way possible,” said Borg. “Westonka’s teachers and staff have done an incredible job navigating this unprecedented time and making the best of a difficult situation.”