Daily student numbers have ranged from 21 to 56 so far

    Crookston School District Superintendent Jeremy Olson is praising school district staff members like paraprofessionals and title aides for transitioning into child care mode during the statewide mandatory school shutdown triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent social distancing measures.

    As part of Gov. Tim Walz’s order, school districts are required to provide child care services if their parents/guardians work in certain professions, such as emergency responders and health care workers.

    “I just want to recognize the efforts and flexibility of our staff,” Olson said. “Without this, many would not be able to go to work. This is a difficult positions families are being put in each and every day, and this child care is a valuable service.”

    The child care program is based at Highland School. Olson said Highland and Crookston High School were the two main options, with the only requirement being a kitchen. Since the kids are of elementary age, the superintendent said Highland was determined to be the best fit.

    The number of kids in the program varies from day to day, from a low of around 21 to a high of around 56. Highland Principal Chris Trostad tells the Times he figures some parents are most interested in keeping their kids at home and away from other kids as part of social-distancing practices. Olson says social distancing is being used at Highland when the kids are there.

    “We’re taking every precaution we can with social distancing and a lot of disinfecting,” Olson explained.

    The program’s hours are 6:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Trostad says parents can sign up for the times they need to have their kids there, and there’s a dedicated number for them to call a few minutes before they arrive to pick up their kids so they will be waiting at the front entrance to the school.

    “It works out pretty slick,” Trostad said. “We want to eliminate exposure when people are coming and going from the building.”

    Parents are still asked to walk up to the door to make sure kids are leaving with the appropriate adults, he added.

    Typically, Washington School staff are caring for the youngest children in the program in a designated room, and other kids are separated by grades in the Highland library, Trostad explained, adding that after-school care director Deb Myrold is doing a “fabulous job” overseeing the program and making sure there are educational opportunities mixed with fun, enrichment activities.

    When the district launches its distance-learning curriculum on March 30, Trostad said more staff will be added and groups of kids will be separated even further so they can focus on academic learning more.

    Asked what would happen if a “shelter-in-place” order will come in Minnesota, Trostad said it seems like it’s inevitable that it will happen at some point. “Everything is just moving closer and closer to us,” he said. “I think everybody will be sent home if that happens.”