Willmar Schools to begin distance learning Nov. 30 as COVID-19 infects staff, broader community

Students in Willmar Public Schools will begin distance learning Nov. 30. That will continue until Jan. 19. COVID-19 infections among school staff and in the broader community are leading to the change.


WILLMAR — Willmar Public Schools will be switching to all distance learning beginning Nov. 30, the Monday after Thanksgiving.

In an email sent Monday afternoon, Superintendent Jeff Holm said the change was needed because of COVID-19 infections on the school staff. The district has been using hybrid learning for all students in recent weeks.

Holm said the district plans to return to hybrid instruction Jan. 19.

Students will not have school on Nov. 24, which will be a planning day for the staff. The school calendar had already called for no classes to be held Nov. 25-27.

In October the district put Roosevelt Elementary School in distance learning for two weeks, in part because it was becoming difficult to cover staff absences. In that case, there were signs the coronavirus was spreading within the school, too.


Willmar Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Holm is shown Monday, March 16, 2020, at the Willmar Education and Arts Center. Erica DIschino / West Central Tribune

Holm has mentioned staff absences as a factor in deciding how to operate the schools. In cases where an instructor is in isolation at home and teaching remotely, the district still needs adult supervision in the classroom.

In the most recent state report on the 14-day rate of new cases, Kandiyohi County recorded a rate of 107.83 cases per 10,000 population. It was the county’s highest case rate since the state began issuing the weekly reports this summer.

The Willmar School District is located entirely within Kandiyohi County.

At the most recent Willmar School Board meeting, Holm said the case rate alone doesn’t cause a shift in learning models. It’s part of a broader consideration that includes looking at how the coronavirus is spreading in the community and how that affects the availability of school staff.

Holm said the situation causes additional stress for families who have their children learning at home or placed in quarantine because of a possible contact at school. It also causes stress for staff members who are working in ways they never had before.

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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