COVID-19: A Year Removed

TAHS SUPT. CHAD ANDERSON called a district-wide meeting last March to address all school staff on what the district needed to do in response to COVID-19 coming to Minnesota. Tracy Area Headlight Herald file photo

With optimism for the future, superintendent, city administrator reflect on a tumultuous year

By Per Peterson

One year ago this week, “distance learning” became part of our vocabulary. Soon after, “hybrid learning” followed. History has already suggested that these phrases are so frowned upon that they’re akin to profanity. In fact, most lexicon used to reflect on the year 2020 probably shouldn’t be spoken in public.

When the COVID-19 storm hit Minnesota in March 2020, few knew what to expect. Some people were worried. Others downplayed the situation because of the unknown. But one thing is for sure: It didn’t take long for this new global pandemic to change our world — our small businesses and economies, as well as our schools and our cities as a whole.

Tracy Area High School Supt. Chad Anderson, who led the charge when the school district had to abruptly change gears last March, used the word “rollercoaster” when summing up the 2020 school year.

“The ups and the downs, and the transitions and the changes, the twists and the turns … what is that ride at Valleyfair — the Corkscrew, where you go up and down and upside down … that’s what this last year has been like,” said Anderson.

Tracy’s school system suffered one blow after another in 2020. Senior student-athletes lost their spring season, as did others in extra-curricular activities.

Prom was cancelled. Graduation took place in a parking lot with diplomas sealed in Ziploc bags. Senior awards night took place virtually. And, most notably, for all students, getting an education meant they went from sitting in a classroom to sitting in their dining room, as distance learning took hold on March 23. Suddenly, students were learning in their homes, away from their teachers and classmates.

“We were dealing with things that were unprecedented,” Anderson said. “Like we try to teach our kids, we had to use critical thinking and think on the go and outside the box. We had to look at the world a different way in order to accomplish what we needed to do for our kids.”

On March 16 of last year, Anderson held an all-hands-on-deck meeting that included everyone involved in the school district — from teachers and coaches, paraprofessionals to bus drivers — in an effort to spread pertinent pandemic-related information and get on the same page. The last day at school at Tracy Area Public Schools was Wednesday, March 11, as the next two days were set aside for spring break. Twelve days later, a new era of learning began at all schools in Tracy.

“You look at anything in history where you start something for the first time … things change,” Anderson said. “The first plane that Orville and Wilbur Wright put together at Kitty Hawk was different from the jets that are flying today; we built our first plane on March 23, and our plane would look different if we did it next year, too.”

Anderson learned rather quickly how fortunate he was to be surrounded by staff who not only appreciated the circumstances, but did what they had to do to keep the school’s engine turning during the most unlikely of times. Seeing the true colors of the school district’s staff, Anderson said, was one of the silver linings of 2020.

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