Old School: Back to the little red schoolhouse

Troy Krause
Redwood Falls Gazette

Gov. Tim Walz and officials from the Minnesota departments of education and health recently announced the decision regarding the plan for 2020-21 school year. In the end, they made no decision and will leave it up to local schools.

I have heard plenty of arguments on all sides of the choice school districts will be making.

There are those who are adamant that students return to school in-person on a full-time basis, while others are convinced students should continue the distance learning model provided at the end of the 2019-20 year.

Naturally, there are also those in the middle who believe a good compromise is a little bit of both – a hybrid option that could have students going to school in-person some days and learning from home on others.

The challenge as I see it is that there really is not a one-size-fits-all model that is going to make everyone happy.

So, I have come up with my own proposal.

I call it back to the little red schoolhouse.

As schools strive to survive, the option that has been exercised most often is consolidation.

In the wake of bringing students from a larger demographic area into one community, and often into one building, students have been piled in – creating less square footage per pupil unit.

Those consolidations have often led to school buildings in other towns being closed. Some of those buildings still exist, and, perhaps with a little bit of work, they could be used once again.

In the event that those buildings are not available, we all know there are myriad spaces throughout communities that are left empty during the school day, and they could be used as classrooms for smaller groups of students who would then be spaced away from each other.

In some communities the numbers are already small enough that spacing could be created within one building that would still allow for social distancing.

I know one of the questions many have raised is what happens in a school setting if a student or group of students is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Would that mean the entire facility would have to be shut down?

If smaller groups were located in little red schoolhouse settings only those in that location would then be impacted by the coronavirus exposure.

I understand the logistics of something like this would be a significant challenge.

Yet, I also know there are enough anxious families who are prepared to keep their kids at home no matter what.

There are also students who need something more than can be offered in a socially distant setting.

We all can agree kids need to learn, and it is up to the adults to find the best way to do that and then to stick with it.