Administrator’s Corner: Be positive leaders for Albert Lea students

Published 8:00 pm Friday, November 20, 2020

Administrator’s Corner by Paul Durbahn


As Albert Lea Schools enters a distance learning model for the next two weeks and a shut-down of activities for a few weeks, I want to try to paint a clear picture of what our schools were facing over the last few months.

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My goal here is to provide some insight and help the families of our community understand the volume at which our school district was handling COVID-19 situations, and as a result how it has led to a distance learning educational model. First off, we’re very fortunate to have such a strong staff here at Albert Lea Area Schools that kept us in the learning model we were in for as long as we did, as well as kept athletic opportunities available through the fall. As we looked around us this fall, we saw many school districts wavering back and forth in different models. I think those with students enrolled in our schools can find appreciation for the consistency we had through the first part of the school year, rather than changing models week by week. The desire to stay in a consistent learning model was driven by the needs of our community and what was best for the students and families of Albert Lea.

Paul Durbahn

Unfortunately, the county metrics are to the point where our hybrid learning model at the secondary, in-person at the elementary, and activities are not sustainable. The recent increase in cases has been detrimental to our classrooms and teams. When an exposure hits an athletic team, for example, any athlete who was in close contact during a practice, bus ride or event is required to quarantine for 14 days. This takes large groups of students out of our classrooms from a single exposure. Most of our fall programs experienced interruptions here and there, but nothing like we are starting to see as we continued into the late fall with other activities. We have had major COVID-19 implications with all groups of students currently participating (shutdowns and quarantines due to exposures) in sports. We’ve seen groups between five to 35 people at a time being quarantined from school and activities. The quarantine takes a toll on our education system and strains the families and students immensely. Also, the teachers have additional work to provide education materials to those students at home while quarantined, all the while still trying to provide hybrid or in-person learning models of education for the students who are still in their class. Other staff in our district are starting to get stretched thin as well. Our paras, support staff and custodial groups are just some of the groups impacted.

What’s most challenging for our school system is that most cases of COVID-19 are being contracted outside of our schools, and then impacting our staff and students. Our schools and athletic department have rigid COVID-19 protocols and safety precautions they are following to try to limit the spread within their classroom or activity, and for the most part, we’ve been successful in mitigating any spread. However, because of the larger community spread, we are quarantining large groups of student athletes.

As we come back, it’s extremely important families err on the side of caution and do not attend school or activities if they have any symptoms, someone in their household is ill or if someone in their household is awaiting COVID-19 test results.

As we venture into a distance learning model and a pause with our activities, Albert Lea Area Schools will do our best to still provide a quality education. I want to encourage our community to stay positive and work together to overcome this hurdle. Our students are depending on us to be positive leaders here. Please continue to take this pandemic seriously, and for those of you strongly opposed to the decisions being made, try to be understanding of where we’re at and realize our kids are the ones being impacted by our decisions. We’re not going to re-write the rules for convenience; we need to beat this and get our kids back in school, and if that means making concessions for a moderately short window of time, I hope we can all stomach that.

Here’s to hoping we see kids back in school and activities sooner rather than later!

Paul Durbahn is the activities director for Albert Lea Area Schools.