By Anna Jauhola
Students at Kittson Central and Lancaster schools have adapted well to the strange new start of the academic year.
Superintendents Bob Jaszczak and Shannon Hunstad said everyone has been compliant with wearing masks and making sure to follow the guidance put in place.
“It’s helped tremendously that it’s been pretty nice outside,” Jaszczak said. “So we’ve been able to spend a lot of time outside and the music programs are outside as well. If we could get a month of that, it’d be awesome.”
Enrollment is down for Kittson Central with just 222 students in the building, two students who chose to do distance learning and one student who is entirely post-secondary. The district gained nine new students but lost a few to homeschooling for the year, which Jaszczak hopes is a temporary situation due to COVID-19. Enrollment last year was 231.
Lancaster’s enrollment is up dramatically this year at 192 students because they added 17 students and there is a larger kindergarten class.
Hunstad said the district finished last year with 164 students. The first week at Lancaster went really well, he added.
“All our staff – paras, cooks, custodians, teachers, everybody – their attitudes last week made it really good,” he said. “They’re fantastic and I really appreciate them.”
As COVID-19 spread over the last month in Kittson County, the cases have increased to 12 as of Monday, Sept. 14, which left the county with eight active cases. Some of those cases affected the teaching staff at Kittson Central, but Jaszczak said everyone who tested positive is now clear and their quarantine for the illness is complete. Also, their families have completed their self-isolation periods and everyone is healthy.
Hunstad said none of his staff or students have been affected by the disease, and “knock on wood” it’ll stay that way.
As cases climb, the schools monitor that and work closely with public health to determine whether to close school. Due to the low population, Kittson County schools should adjust the learning model if there are 10 active cases.
However, that also depends on the school’s exposure to the virus.
“They’re not hard and fast rules,” Jaszczak said. “We’re just thankful the positives we did have happened before school began so it ran its course for them and it’s done.”
Students in both Kittson Central and Lancaster remain spaced out with some rearranging of rooms. In Hallock, several elementary grades are split into two rooms with teachers and paraprofessionals switching back and forth. Some high school students in larger classes will rotate spending part of their time in the computer lab to participate in class remotely via Zoom. Kari Jo Jensen’s classes have been moved to the auditorium so they can be spaced out.
In Lancaster, music and band classes are being held in the west gym where everyone is spread out sufficiently. The elementary grades take regular mask breaks with lunch, gym and other activities. Hunstad said the higher grades are well-spaced in their classrooms, but also get regular mask breaks for lunch and other activities.
Jaszczak and Hunstad are happy with and proud of how students and staff have adapted to the massive changes for this year. Although it will be different for a while, everyone at the schools are doing well.
“The students are resilient, upbeat, excited to be back and see their friends and teachers,” Hunstad said. “For all the worries people had about the masks, after about half a day, nobody seemed to think about them. It’s just another piece of apparel.”
By Anna Jauhola