Crookston teachers working on distance learning plan in the meantime.

    K-12 teachers in the Crookston School District on Wednesday, the first day of an eight-day state-mandated school closure, began putting their heads together as they come up with distance learning plans for their students.

    Although, technically speaking, there’s a chance students could return to classes as normal when the mandatory closure ends on Monday, March 30, Superintendent Jeremy Olson said at a special Crookston School Board meeting this week that the eight days are designed to be a time for teachers to get their distance learning plans in order and prepped for implementation beginning on March 30.

    “The state is being careful on their wording, saying that learning will begin March 30,” Olson said. “But if I was a betting person, I’d bet a large amount of money that it’s going to be distance learning.”

    To illustrate the unprecedented potential finality of the 2019-20 school year, at Crookston High School moments after the school day ended Tuesday at 3 p.m., the entire senior class walked as a group through the school hallways as the marching band accompanied them by playing the school rouser in the media center and teachers, staff and younger students lined the halls and cheered them. It was the same kind of send-off student athletic and activity participants who advance to state competition receive, but something that Principal Eric Bubna said the school administration felt was necessary and appropriate, on what could be the last in-school day of their senior year for the CHS Class of 2020. It’s possible that there will be no prom in April and no commencement exercises in May, and the magnitude of the moment wasn’t lost on a few members of the senior class, who could be seen crying as they walked the school halls during the senior send-off. (See a Facebook Live video of the send-off at the Times’ Facebook page.)

    Olson called the process of putting a quality distance learning plan in place in eight days a “daunting task” for teachers and staff, but he added that he thinks they are “certainly up to the challenge.”

    The superintendent said he understands that a distance learning curriculum for the district’s youngest students could be more challenging to formulate and carry out compared to one at the high school level. He said that no matter the age of the student, the goal is not to “create busy work” but really try to “continue education.”

    “It’s easy to send worksheets home, and I’m not knocking that, but this is not just about ‘doing school,’ but how we advance education as much as possible,” Olson explained. “In school is the first option but that’s not available, so we need to be a little creative.”

    Although he said that “guidance from the state” seems to be changing by the hour, when asked by board member Tim Dufault if students who need one-on-one, in-person contact with a teacher for some specific tutoring during the school closure would be able to get it, Olson said as of now it’s his belief that no in-person instruction will be allowed, even if it’s just one teacher or tutor and one student.

Fee weighs in
    In regard to Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz ordering the statewide school shutdown, board chair Frank Fee, saying he wasn’t trying to be political, praised the governor’s response to the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic.

    “I feel very safe and secure and confident in our governor, the way he’s taken charge, more than I do at the top,” Fee said, adding that the final words of his comment were, in fact, “political” in nature.