Principal’s Corner: What goes on behind the scenes

Published 4:05 pm Friday, March 27, 2020

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Principal’s Corner by Tonya Franks

Tonya Franks


In a press conference on March 15, Gov. Tim Walz announced an executive order which authorized and directed the commissioner of education to implement a distance learning period and continue to provide a safe learning environment for Minnesota’s students. With this came the directive that schools were to close from March 18 through March 27. School districts were to use this time to prepare for distance learning to commence March 30. And then, on March 25, Walz updated the order to include distance learning through May 4.

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With the March 15 news, Operation Distance Learning launched. Immediately upon returning from spring break, building administrators held staff meetings regarding our district’s distance learning plans and, from there, buildings immediately sprang into action. Teachers began distance learning planning with their collaborative teams and met with grade level colleagues throughout the district to brainstorm ideas and address specific components from Minnesota Department of Education distance learning guidelines. Teachers are using SeeSaw, Google Classroom and Schoology learning platforms for distance learning. Modified learning plans are provided for students with individualized education plans, 504s, multilanguage learners and students receiving intervention support. Transitioning to distance learning has been a professional development opportunity for teachers as they are learning how to screencastify, video lessons, use Zoom Meetings or Google Hangouts, and create online response opportunities for students. While this has presented its challenges, teachers have embraced each challenge. 

“We’ve got this” is our theme and our teachers have shown grit, passion and determination during this planning period. It has been rewarding to witness our teachers collaborating at such a high level and striving to provide learning experiences that meet the needs of their students. With all of this planning for distance learning comes a mix of emotions, too, most of which is sadness. We are in this profession for a reason: we love being able to spend each day educating your children. We will still be there, just in a very different way, but we’ve got this and so do you! 

Distance learning materials were picked up Wednesday and Thursday. Unlike the middle and high school, elementary students do not take devices such as chromebooks home. They remain at school. However, with distance learning comes a shift in instructional delivery and all elementary students are being provided a device; chromebooks for second through fifth grade and iPads in kindergarten and first grade. Our tech department and support staff worked diligently to inventory and prep devices so they were ready for this week’s distribution.  

In addition to distance learning, Walz’s executive order includes the responsibility of school districts to provide food for children 18 and under and child care for emergency and health care workers.  

School age child care (ages 5 to 12) is provided at elementary sites. A complete list of tier one (emergency workers) and tier two (essential workers) can be found on the district’s website.  If a parent/guardian falls in one of these categories and would like to access child care services, please contact your school office to register.  

Food distribution is happening at 13 sites throughout the district, including at all schools (public and private), YMCA, The Rock, Hollandale, Clarks Grove and Hayward. A lunch, breakfast and snack is provided in each bag. Children 18 and under are eligible for free meals.

Tonya Franks is the principal at Halverson Elementary School.