Administrators say students, teachers, staff and families are doing an amazing job, while also citing an extremely challenging and stressful situation for all involved.

As the principals and other administrators at the three buildings that make up Crookston Public Schools updated the Crookston School Board this week on how distance learning is going during the COVID-19 pandemic, a general theme emerged: They’re amazed at how well the staff and students and families are handling the extremely challenging situation, while also acknowledging that it is an EXTREMELY CHALLENGING situation that is far from easy for many to navigate their way through.

CHS Principal Eric Bubna, who acknowledged that he’s a pessimist more often than an optimist, said for high school students distance learning is going better than he thought it would. But, he added, as the weeks of distance learning have added up, engagement and attendance is “waning a bit.” While he said that problem appears to involving only a handful or so of students per grade, when you add that up from seventh through twelfth grade, that’s around 30 students who have had their education negatively impacted to the point that they’re at least somewhat disengaging.

“These are the vulnerable kids who need us the most,” Bubna said.

At Highland School, Principal Chris Trostad said the biggest challenge has involved the youngest students working with all of the necessary technology. “The littlest kids, the assumption that they can handle distance learning, all these screens and navigating, is off base,” he said. “Everybody is doing the best they can, but it’s tough to mix Title situations, ELL (English Language Learners), special ed, phy-ed, music…it’s difficult.”

Audio issues, mostly involving echo, has been a challenge at various houses, and teachers have had a difficult time hearing students when there are several siblings in a room, or multiple kids working at once.

“It’s never taken a village more than it does right now,” added Washington School Principal Denice Oliver. “It’s going very well, but it’s been very stressful for families with multiple kids. There are different schedules, different apps…and fitting distance learning into other stresses families are facing with full time work is a challenge.”

Special Services Director Kathy Stronstad the challenges are even possibly greater with special education students and their parents and families. She said she’s stressed with her staff the importance of embracing relationships and patience and other positive attributes with their students before anything else, and she’s proud of how they’ve followed that lead.

“We’re trying to support our students and families, but it’s a struggle,” Stronstad added. “It’s going as well as any of us could have ever imagined, but it’s really a challenge.”


Looking ahead

With Kindergarten Roundup cancelled due to the pandemic, Oliver said postcards are being sent to families with age-eligible kindergartners in the fall and phone calls are being made to those families as well. A virtual tour of Washington School is also being set up, led by school staff.

For three and four year olds eligible for School Readiness in the fall, Oliver said an online Survey Monkey survey is being conducted. The board recently approved a five-day program, and she said families are being educated on the options available to their three year old and four year old children.