Distance learning will continue at schools across Minnesota for the remainder of the school year due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Gov. Tim Walz said on April 23.
This news is tough for many students and families in Lake Minnetonka-area school districts, area superintendents noted in communications with district staff and families last week.
“I know that this is not the outcome that any of us had hoped for and it’s incredibly difficult for everyone,” Wayzata Public Schools Superintendent Chace Anderson said in an April 23 email to families and staff.
In addition to closing school buildings for the remainder of the school year, the governor also ordered that student instruction not be held on Friday, May 1, and Monday, May 4. The days will be reserved as planning days for teachers and administrators, and then distance learning is scheduled to continue at public school districts in the area.
“We hope that staff and students are finding a good rhythm with distance learning,” Westonka Public Schools Superintendent Kevin Borg wrote in his April 23 Borg Report. “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. Please know that we’re all in this together, and Westonka Schools is here to support you however we can.”
At Wayzata Public Schools, Anderson says distance learning will continue to focus on wellbeing and create the “best possible learning experience for our students as we navigate through these most challenging of circumstances together.” The district encourages students or their parents to connect with school counselors, deans, social workers, student support specialists, principals and teachers if students need more assistance during this time.
“Regardless if our school campuses are physically open or closed, we will continue to care for our students in every way possible,” Borg wrote. “Westonka’s teachers and staff have done an incredible job navigating this unprecedented time and making the best of a difficult situation.
“We are also greatly appreciative of our students and parents, as they continue to demonstrate remarkable resolve,” Borg added.
While school is still in session, area districts will continue to provide free meals to students at designated pickup locations within their district. Childcare for healthcare and emergency personnel will also continue, according to the school districts’ websites.
SPRING EVENTS POSTPONED, CANCELED
The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a lot of cancellations for the Class of 2020, but schools are doing their best to make a real in-person graduation ceremony happen for seniors.
“The impact on our students, their families, our staff and our community is significant,” Anderson said. “I’m heartbroken for our 2020 graduates and families, all the missed awards ceremonies, concerts, sports, prom and other activities that won’t happen this spring. Although the majority of these events will be canceled, we are doing everything we can to reschedule some of these events or do them virtually when possible.”
For Wayzata High School seniors, graduation has been pushed back to Aug. 1 at Mariucci Arena. Graduation for Mound Westonka High School seniors is tentatively rescheduled for June 25. But if that date can’t happen, the school will hold an in-person or virtual ceremony on Thursday, July 23.
Minnetonka Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Peterson said schools are “working through creative ways to honor students’ and employees’ hard-earned accomplishments” and updates about scheduled events will be shared with those who are impacted.
Meanwhile, consistent with the governor’s order, the Minnesota State High School League has canceled the 2020 spring season. Other school events throughout area districts are either canceled or postponed. Even if the event is held, it may not be held in person, with Borg saying Westonka events scheduled in May and early June may be rescheduled or moved to a virtual format.
Minnetonka, Wayzata and Westonka schools are still in the process of determining what will happen with the districts’ summer programming, the districts’ websites say. Borg noted youth and adult programming at Westonka may be moved online but they are “hopeful” that many of the summer programs will continue as scheduled.
The districts say they plan to share additional information about these programs with families in the coming weeks.