On April 23, Governor Tim Walz announced that for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, schools will remain closed with distance learning being how students will attend until Summer Break. Luckily, with a month already under their belt, many schools in the area know what to do to get through the next month of education, and have time to prepare more lesson plans. Central School District, for example, was already planning for this, and will continue their current distance learning.

“We’ve been doing this for 4 weeks or so, and I believe that our staff has done a tremendous job and our kids and parents are showing an amazing amount of patience,” said Timothy Schochenmeier, superintendent for Central School District. “We will continue to run this way until June 2, which is our last student-contact day.”

Central has been working with Google Classroom for middle and high school students, giving them digital assignments and lessons. The elementary schoolers have a slightly different set up, with parents going to the school every couple weeks to pick up work packets for the students to do. Teachers are also performing Zoom meetings for questions or lessons at scheduled times. For those unable to get internet, the school has been working with T-Mobile for hotspot options.

All in all, it’s been successful for the last four weeks, even with the school district having to take quick action.

“To be honest, it’s been like drinking through a fire hose,” said Schochenmeier. “We’re learning a lot, and our staff has risen to the challenge that COVID-19 has presented.”

The district has sent out a survey that at time of interview was still being completed by the community. On May 4 and 5, the school will have a couple teacher workshop days to analyze the survey in order to improve their plan for the coming month. Otherwise, much of the same practices will continue in an effort to keep students, staff, and families safe during the pandemic.

Even with some of the difficulties, though, many of the staff have treated this experience as a learning opportunity according to Schochenmeier. For one, knowing how to put together remote lessons and keep things ready in case of another school closing is being accounted for. That’s not just for a pandemic, either, but also snow storms and other emergencies a school district have to close for.

“If we had to take a hiatus, it wouldn’t be difficult for our teachers and students to slip back into this mode,” said Schochenmeier.

While there’s a decent chance that schools will be reopening this fall, Central is also preparing for the possibility that it doesn’t. June 3 is the last day for staff, which will be the time that the staff discusses ideas for the next year. They will also utilize June 3 for review of the last couple months of distance learning.

Even if the building reopens, though, there are a couple changes, mostly on the sanitation side. After all, just because the infection rates lower doesn’t mean the disease is eradicated. Already, though, Central is prepared to keep everything clean.

“If we had to open our doors tomorrow, I’m confident in our custodial staff with how they’ve been working and keeping everything clean,” said Schochenmeier.

Fall sports and activities are “at the mercy” of the Minnesota State High School League, and there hasn’t been an official announcement of what group activities are going to look like once summer is over. Spring activities, though, are officially cancelled for the year. This includes all spring sports, the spring play, and concerts.

As for graduation, that’s still being worked out. There are a few ideas being worked on, according to Schochenmeier, but nothing is concrete as of yet. The plan is still for May 29, if everything works out, but the details are still being put together.

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