Milaca Public School District Superintendent David Wedin remains thankful the county’s COVID-19 case numbers allow an all-student return next week.
“We are continuing to refine staff and students safety protocols,” he reported. “When you take superintendent classes, there isn’t anything that covers a pandemic.”
Wedin said the Milaca School District is encouraging parents to transport their kids to school if at all possible to help reduce school transportation numbers. “I’ve been working with our bus companies,” Wedin said. There are mask mandates on busses as well as in school.
The district will be putting hand sanitizer on buses. There is a portion of the district’s student population that will be distance learning, and those students won’t need transportation.
“Buses will have reduced ridership,” Wedin said. The school drop-off area will be the same, but additional staff will be available.
Regarding food service, Wedin said cafeteria facilities in the Milaca School District are large enough to support in-student dining as opposed to meals in classrooms.
“We added a lunch period and added times in between existing lunch periods for sanitizing and cleaning,” he added. “There will be distancing between students. In the end, we felt lucky that we had the cafeteria space for this use, because it will also give us time to disinfect classrooms while students are away eating lunch.”
Parents will play a crucial role in getting students ready for the school day, making sure they wear masks or other personal protective equipment, Wedin explained.
“Our district placed an order for a lot of PPE, including shields, disinfectant, and masks,” Wedin said. “We did that ahead of getting state guidance, as one way of beating a possible order wave. That guidance said PPE would be provided for staff and students as well.” Wedin said the district picked up its PPE late last week. “We feel really good about what we have in stock. We have state items as well.”
Updates to district facilities approved by voters last fall are well in hand, Wedin said.
Roofing and window repairs have been completed, and work is wrapping up on a new concession and storefront area. “That area has made a lot of progress.”
The most visible facilities upgrade is the renovation and expansion to career and technical education space at the west end of the Milaca High School building.
“Right now, the construction timeline calls for that project to be completed by winter break,” Wedin said. “It’s going to be a great addition to our facilities.”
The Mille Lacs County State Aid Highway 2 and 32 street reconstruction project near the school has been watched carefully by district officials this summer.
Wedin said he’s been getting project regular updates from Buildings and Grounds Coordinator Bob Sumner, who has been working with the county. “Right now, I’ve been told that the project remains on track and will be ready once school starts.”
Parents need to have a heightened awareness regarding district communications in the coming week and as the school year gets rolling in September, Wedin said.
“We’ve had a communications subcommittee that was meeting on a weekly basis throughout the summer,” he said. “We’ve been using Facebook and email, and will continue to use those to be as timely as possible with critical information.”
Wedin said he’s been treading a careful communication line regarding release of information during the COIVID-19 pandemic. Accuracy and timeliness are critical.
“It’s been hard sometimes, but that’s what I’ve been doing,” Wedin said. “With everyone connected via social media, it can be difficult sometimes. Every district looks different and has a different policy. We are staying connected locally.”
Thinking ahead regarding district communications will become important in the next few months, Wedin added. “Things that used to make sense have changed.”