Governor’s order closes area schools
Local schools were working this week to accommodate students and their families following Gov. Tim Walz’ order on Sunday closing all public and private K-12 schools statewide for at least eight days in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The closing was mandated to start Wednesday, March 18, and continue at least through March 27. Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said schools should use the time to prepare for “weeks of distance learning.”
The governor’s action Sunday morning came after a Friday declaration of a peacetime state of emergency in Minnesota.
All local districts had said they were working on plans in case of school closures but Sunday’s action caused new urgency.
Byron Supt. Dr. Joey Page announced Sunday afternoon that he had made the decision to close schools effective Monday, March 16.
“We understand that extended school closure will create hardship for many families,” Page said, in a email to parents. “We are working hard to ensure that all of our staff and students remain safe as we deal with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We want to make sure that families and staff feel well supported and informed. Part of our mitigation plan is ensuring that our students and staff who are considered vulnerable/high risk are protected.”
The schools are closed to students, he said, but teacher and staff were still at the school this week to continue planning. Plans were being put in place to provide pickup of breakfast and lunch for students whose parents requested them and iPads were made available to all students in grades two through five.
Throughout the closure, Project Kids will be open only for families of emergency workers and district staff from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Plans will be re-evaluated daily and families will be kept informed with frequent updates via email, the Byron schools website and social media channels, Page said.
Kasson-Mantorville Schools remained open on Monday and Tuesday and ran normal bus routes but supported those families that wanted to keep their children out of school those two days, Supt. Mark Matuska said.
“We realize not everyone has childcare plans determined for a school closure,” he said, “and we want to make attending school an option for families both Monday, March 16, and Tuesday, March 17.” He added the school will continue academic lessons those two days and expected students to complete any projects or assignments.
Last week Matuska said that the district had prepared plans for responses to the pandemic and those plans had been posted on the district website.
That original plan had said that school-aged and preschool childcare would not be available during a closure. On Sunday, the superintendent said the plan had changed and Project Kids would provide care to the children of healthcare workers, first responders, law enforcement and firefighters access to childcare. Initial plans, he said, are for childcare to be available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The district is also working with the school’s food service provider, Taher, to develop a strategy to provide school lunches for students during the closure.
Hayfield Public Schools
Hayfield schools were open Monday but closed beginning on Tuesday. During the initial closure period, Supt. Gregg Slaathaug said, the principals will be working with teachers and staff to create a plan conducive for all students to learn starting Monday, March 30.
Like Byron and Kasson-Mantorville, Hayfield will be providing meals to students if they need them.
Slaathaug said the district’s food service staff will provide breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday for the duration of the shutdown. Meals will be delivered to the residence or a consistent designated drop off area with the communities, he said. All breakfast/lunch fees will be charged to accounts as usual, he added.
Triton Public Schools
Triton schools were open Monday and Tuesday for those students who needed a place to go, Supt. Craig Schlichting said, but would be closed to students starting Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday were non-instructional days, he said, and attendance was not required.
Triton students in need of meals during the school closure can request breakfast and/or lunch by emailing email@example.com to arrange for services or for information. Requests can also be mailed by calling the kitchen at 507-418-7531 to place an order. All orders must be placed by 12 noon for delivery the next day.