Local residents, officials respond to wave of shutdowns

As in cities all over the world, once COVID-19 cases spread into Minnesota, the city of Lakeville and the Lakeville Area School District shut down their gatherings and classes.

It started with the slow trickle of event cancellations on Thursday, the closure of facilities on Friday and Saturday, the state-ordered closure of schools March 18-27 on Sunday and then the governor ordered that bars and restaurants stop sit-down service on Monday.

Every facet of public life has been touched by the potential spread of a virus that has been causing mild to severe illnesses in hundreds of thousands of people across the world and more than 110 U.S. deaths as of Wednesday, including 77 infections and no deaths in Minnesota.

The actions over the past week have been an effort to curb a rise in coronavirus cases, as the highly-contagious virus has been spreading through airborne and surface contact with those infected.

As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, students and staff had cleared out all of their learning materials and personal items with the idea that on Monday, March 30, when District 194’s spring break was slated to end, the district’s Extended Flex Learning Days would start.

“They are coming into the building sad,” said Sandy Giorgi, elementary teaching and learning director. “They are in tears because of that unknown. The teachers are sad too. They miss their students. They miss the schedule and the routine. They are concerned for personal well-being of their students. They also have the stress of moving from a brick-and-mortar delivery of instruction to an online process.”

“Our staff is phenomenal. They are embracing it. They have a can-do attitude. They are sharing resources to navigate this new learning environment.”

The district said it has worked on a contingency plan in the event of such a mandate and is well prepared to implement distance learning.

“The role that schools play in the lives of our kids — it is being recognized,” said Lisa Holien, student support services coordinator. “They want to be back in school to connect with the kids and adults in their lives who care for them.”

Lakeville’s City Council passed an emergency declaration Monday night, allowing it to “combat the disaster and provide emergency assistance without complying with time-consuming procedures and formalities that are generally required” before undertaking such projects.

“We recognize that this is a challenging and unsettling time,” Mayor Doug Anderson said in a statement on March 13. “I ask that you continue to take appropriate action to protect yourselves, your family, neighbors and community.”

The city closed most of its facilities to the public on March 13, including its ice arenas, the Lakeville Area Arts Center and the Heritage Center where its Active Adults groups meet. City Hall was closed the public on Tuesday. People were encouraged to contact officials by phone.

Around town

Gatherings of any kind were canceled in Lakeville, including the Lakeville Landscape & Home Expo and Consumer Showcase, which was slated March 14 at Lakeville North High School, all Arts Center performances and school events.

Some of these organizations pledged to reschedule the events, including the Lakeville Chamber’s expo.

Religious messages were delivered mostly to empty seats on Sunday, March 15.

The Rev. Andy Smith of St. John’s Lutheran Church offered words of encouragement with empty pews in the background during his online message, as the building was closed until March 25 when leaders would reassess the closure.

“We have centered on Christ’s admonition to us to ‘love the neighbor’ as secondary only to loving God,” the church said in a message to parishioners. “Approaching this with faith and not fear, as well as with the best information and critical thinking we have, we feel doing our part to help slow the transmission of the virus is the most loving and faithful thing we can do to care for all our neighbors here at St. John’s, locally, and even around the world.”

Across town, grocery stores were picked clean of many items, such as certain canned good, paper products and cleaners, following the earlier run on hand sanitizers, facemasks and anti-bacterial anything.

Cub Foods near downtown was busy on Monday, as many of the staple products were available, such as milk, bread, eggs, produce and many other items. Lines weren’t too much longer than usual in the afternoon, even though there were many more shoppers than usual buying more products than usual.

State and national governments were encouraging people not to hoard products. People were to keep in mind that others may need the same kinds of food items.

Cub Foods supplier UNFI reported that the surge in buying was similar to what the stores experience in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. The company reported a doubling of its sales from 2019 to 2020 as of March 11, as sales continued to roar in the days the followed.

What’s next

District 194 had conducted its first Flex Learning Day earlier in the school year, and the success of the extended version of it would require the cooperation of students, staff and parents.

“While the state of Minnesota has stated learning may resume on March 30, the district is preparing for the possibility that we may not be able to resume in-person learning in our school buildings,” the district said in a press release. “We need our families and staff to be prepared for extended distance learning in the event it happens.”

Lakeville Area Schools decided to cancel school earlier, beginning Monday, March 16, through Sunday, March 29. This included all programs, practices, activities and child care.

District 194 got a reprieve of sorts by having its spring break, as students do not have required school work to complete at home during this week and next.

The district said direction related to end of quarter work will be forthcoming.

“Although a long-term school closure has not yet been mandated, families should make a plan for the possibility of a long-term, extended closure,” the district said.

“We recognize this is a trying time for everyone and this situation is unprecedented,” the district said. “We are confident in the thorough guidance, direction, and assistance we are receiving from our state and local organizations. We have and will continue to respond in the best interest of our students, staff, and community.”

Child care support

To support parents and guardians who are health care workers and emergency personnel, free child care was provided for Lakeville Area students ages 3-12 March 18 and 19. This was in accordance with the mandate from Gov. Tim Walz.

“We are grateful for these members of our community and the critical role they play in mitigating COVID-19,” the district said.

Lakeville Area Schools will not be providing child care during the scheduled spring break.

The district said it is committed to supporting the needs of students enrolled in care and treatment.

Currently, area providers are assessing programming delivery after the governor’s executive order.

As of Monday, Lakeville Area Schools suspended transportation for students attending care and treatment, similar to when the district experiences weather-related school cancellation.

School staff will consult with facilities to determine next steps should school closure be necessary after Sunday, March 29.

“We are committed to the social-emotional well-being of our students, especially during this time of elevated anxiety and social distancing,” the district said. “Student Services staff will be available to provide support services for students and consultation to parents/guardians after spring break.”

Meals and care packs

Lakeville Area Schools provided meals to students March 18 and 19 through a drive-up pickup location at Lakeville North High School and meal delivery via school buses to locations throughout the district.

Care packs with basic school supplies were available to families who needed them at the pickup and delivery locations.

There will be no distributions during spring break.

In the event of an extended closure, food and school supply distribution would resume March 30 regularly Monday through Friday.

More information about it was available on the district’s website.

For the latest information the district has shared, visit isd194.org/news/covid-19-information-update/.

Direct any questions to information@isd194.org.

Tad Johnson is at tad.johnson@apgecm.com.

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