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Albert Lea students are back in school

Students in Albert Lea Area Schools headed back to the classroom Wednesday and Thursday for a new school year.

Sixth and eighth graders started Wednesday with orientations, and the remainder of the grades began Thursday.

“It has been a great first day of school,” Superintendent Mike Funk said Thursday afternoon. “This is the first time in over a year that we have the vast majority of our students on site. We have many excited students, family members and staff who have been anxiously awaiting a new school year.”

After varying schedules in the last year and a half in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, students will be attending five days a week.

Though the masking guidelines have shifted slightly compared to the previous school year, many of the other COVID-19 precautions remain in place.

The district has “strongly recommended” masks for staff and students not fully vaccinated. There will also be daily check-ins, temperature checks, cleaning and sanitizing.

New this school year on the district website there will be a breakdown by school building of the current active and total COVID-19 cases in the district. As of Thursday, there was one case at Lakeview Elementary, two at Southwest, three at Hawthorne and five for Albert Lea High School and Area Learning Center.

The district also started a new Online Academy, approved through the Minnesota Department of Education, for students who like the distance learning format. Students will learn through video modules, journaling, reading for learning in the subject matter and other online resources.

Funk said there are presently 56 in the academy, which is available for students in grade 4-12.

In a letter on the district website, Funk said the district has learned much from the various educational tools that were utilized in the last year shifting between learning models.

“Our students and staff are better for it,” he said. “We will continue to meet our learner’s needs through some of these methods.”

He said Hammer Field is open for all fall sports, and staff hope to see community supporters at various events.

“Albert Lea remains home to the finest athletic complex in southern Minnesota,” he said. “We are also looking forward to welcoming the public back to many of our fine activities that were canceled last year.”