West central Minnesota schools surveying parents, making variety of plans for school in the fall

School districts in Minnesota are making multiple plans for the coming school year. They are surveying parents and staff and will follow Minnesota Department of Education guidance to navigate a school year during a pandemic.


The state’s public schools will definitely be teaching students this fall.

How that’s going to happen is still an open question, and the answer may vary throughout the coming school year.

The Minnesota Department of Education has told school districts to prepare three plans for the fall, depending on events related to the coronavirus pandemic.

They may start the school year with kids back in classrooms, with infection control measures in place. They could return to distance learning, the way they finished the last school year. Or, there may be a hybrid using features of both.

Districts had less than two weeks to make the transition to distance learning in March. The summer gives them more planning time.


The Minnesota Department of Education will make an announcement at the end of July regarding plans for the first day of school.

A week ago, the department released a 100-page planning guide covering the three scenarios.

MACCRAY Schools are planning summer professional development, “so our teachers have what they need to meet the needs of students, parents and themselves,” Superintendent Sherri Broderius said in an email.

The new guidance from the state will be included in the district’s plans. “We have incorporated the guidance documents that have come out so far and we will continue,” she added.

MACCRAY has used surveys to stay in touch with parents, and is awaiting the results of the most recent one, Broderius said. Listening sessions with parents and with staff are planned.

While the state’s guidance is helpful, Willmar is also working with a consultant to plan a strategy for its district. The same consultant is familiar with the district after helping develop its elementary attendance areas and develop the district’s strategic plan in recent years.

“We know things will be different in September, so we are trying to plan for the possibility that we could be moving from distance learning, to hybrid learning, to on-site learning, and back again,” said Superintendent Jeff Holm.

In a recent conference call, state officials suggested that districts might use different models in different schools, if there was an outbreak in one building, for example, he said.


The focus for now is in working to improve distance-learning practices and to make sure things are in place to implement what the state recommends, Holm said.

Nearly 90 percent of parents told the Hancock School District in a survey they would be comfortable sending their children back to a classroom this fall.

The district is also gathering feedback from teachers, said Superintendent Paul Carlson.

Having students back in their classrooms will be the top priority as the district develops its plans, Carlson said. The district will be ready to shift between the three models on short notice during the year, as directed by the state.

“We may implement all three models at some time during the year,” Carlson said.

Benson Superintendent Dennis Laumeyer said his team would develop detailed plans, incorporating the state’s recommendations and feedback received from families and staff members.

“Given the uncertain nature of the virus, it is hard to know what will happen in the fall,” Laumeyer said . “However, I hope that all students will safely be back in our schools this fall.”

The district’s plans will be developed with feedback from families and staff members, he said.


“Do I think what we plan for will be what we do in the fall ... maybe,” Broderius said. “Nobody can possibly know that.”

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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