Distance learning to continue; 2nd graduation survey sent out

By Per Peterson

The inevitable happened last Thursday when Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz officially announced that the traditional school year is over as part of an ongoing effort to distance Minnesotans from each other to help curb the spread of coronavirus.

Schools in Minnesota have been practicing a new style of education called distance learning since mid-March, when Walz issued his stay at home order that directed schools to close to students (which he later extended from March 15 to May 4). The date for closing Minnesota schools was set for March 18, but Tracy Area Public Schools, coming off its spring break, chose to close its doors on March 16. That means students at Tracy schools haven’t walked the halls since March 11. Tracy Area Public Schools began distance learning on March 23.

“I’ve done about everything you can at a school — teacher, principal, coach, superintendent — and I’ve watched seniors go through everything, but you truly don’t fully appreciate how hard this is until you have your own child who can’t do it,” said Tracy Area High School Supt. Chad Anderson, himself a parent of a member of the Class of 2020. “It’s crazy.”

Distance learning will continue as normal.

“I think it’s going very well, largely because of the work of our building principals, our teachers, our paras — they’re all working together to help every single child,” Anderson said. “If they see a child hasn’t been on line, or not doing what they need to do, they’re working together to try to contact the parents, to contact the child to see if they’re OK,” Anderson said. “It’s really made our teachers even more aggressive in helping every child.”

Anderson said as the weather has gotten nicer it will become more of a challenge to keep the students engaged from their homes.

“But I would say 80% of the kids are doing what they need to do,” he said. “And we keep working to help the other 20%.”

The school district is required to continue to provide daily meals, as it has since schools closed more than a month ago. As of today (April 29) there have been 31 academic days and dozens of sporting events and other extra curricular events wiped out because of the pandemic.

As part of his news conference last Thursday, Walz addressed the state’s Class of 2020 and how tough it is to see how their “rite of passage” has been taken from them. He said this year’s seniors will be defined, not by the class that had to stay home and miss prom and other functions, but by being the class that has a full understanding of how interconnected the world is and what it means to come together to try and solve problems.

“This is the year … you started thinking about the next phase of your lives … this is a rite of passage, that you are young adults and (had) your future laid out in front of you,” Walz said. “It feels like that’s been taken, and it has for you.”

Walz also tried to put somewhat of a positive spin on all that’s happened for this year’s seniors. He said the closeness of the Class of 2020 will be much more tangible than that of any other class that came before.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.