By Randy Bergquist, Osakis Public Schools superintendent
What a year! To be honest, I have never been happier for a school year to be complete than the one we just finished. I hate to admit that because I went into education to make a difference for students. I would like to highlight some of the items that took place this year.
First and foremost, whether I agreed with the guidance and requirements set forth for public schools by the Minnesota Department of Education, the Minnesota Department of Health, and/or Gov. Walz, I followed them. For example, the mask mandate was a requirement for students and staff in a school setting. I have to compliment students and staff for the great job they did in following this mask mandate throughout the year. It was a long year for this requirement and as the year came to an end, it was much harder for all involved, including myself.
Second, as an educator and parent, I am not a big fan of distance learning for most students. I prefer to be in-person when educating our students. As a school district last fall, we attempted to stay in-person for as long as possible. This doesn’t mean I didn’t care about staff and students. As a district, we purchased PPE equipment like gloves, hand-sanitizing stations, classroom dividers, masks, and many other items to ensure our students could remain in-person for learning as long as possible.
Third, the guidance required for school districts to report “contact tracing,” for any student or staff member who tested positive for COVID-19 and/or had close contact was by far the most frustrating. Contact tracing consumed a majority of time throughout this year and it was disappointing to let students and parents know they couldn’t come to school or take part in their favorite activities.
Finally, as many negative issues as there were in education this year, there were highlights too. The fact that Osakis Public School had a majority of its teaching in-person this year, was a credit to the staff, students, parents, and community members. It was great seeing students in the hallways, even though they were wearing masks. Prom and graduation were awesome events that brought together many people who celebrated student achievements after a less than normal year. I want to wish everyone a safe and happy summer with family and friends!