Commencement ceremonies for graduating seniors at Detroit Lakes High School are still scheduled for Sunday, May 17 — at least for now, according to Superintendent Doug Froke.

"Based upon the current executive order by the governor, graduation would be held on May 17 as planned," Froke said.

But as Gov. Tim Walz has hinted that the school closure and distance learning mandate could be extended to the end of the school year, those plans could change at any time, Froke added.

"If decisions are made to continue with distance learning through the end of the school year, and the stay-at-home orders from either the governor or Legislature were to continue, then we would likely postpone graduation until such time as those orders were lifted, or expired," Froke said. "We are going to do everything we can to provide some form of recognition for our graduating seniors, but the No. 1 priority is the safety and health of our community."

Froke said that the question of what to do for graduation this year is one every community across the United States is facing right now.

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"With that in mind, the potential is there that graduation could take on a different look than what we’ve experienced in the past," he added, "but it's also important that these students receive due recognition for their 13 years of work."

Distance learning, and distance grading

As for the district-wide distance learning initiative that has been in place for the past two weeks, Froke said, "With all things considered, it appears to be working adequately. We know that it is not the same thing as being in our classrooms, but I think our teachers have done a great job of modifying their curriculum to fit distance learning platforms, and I think our kids have responded well."

When problems have come up, he added, students and parents have done a good job of communicating with their teachers to work them out.

All of the district's academic buildings have begun sending out surveys to parents and students over the past week, asking for feedback on the distance learning plans in place for each facility.

"It's important for us, as a district, that our families complete those surveys," Froke said, "so we can get their feedback on how things are going with the distance learning models."

Froke said that the feedback will help teachers and administrators to figure out what areas of instruction can be improved upon, as well as what things are going right.

Currently, the district's staff and administrators are trying to work out a plan for how to handle grading of students for the current semester; more information about that will be made available once the plan has been finalized.

Detroit Lakes Public Schools Superintendent Doug Froke. (Tribune file photo)
Detroit Lakes Public Schools Superintendent Doug Froke. (Tribune file photo)

District is distributing about 1,200 free meals a day

The district's free meal pickup and delivery program has also been going well since it started on May 17, Froke said.

"We served 1,200 meals in a day last week, and there were three consecutive days when we were right in that range," he said. This works out to be about a third of the district's student population, he said.

"That's right in line with what other districts our size are experiencing," Froke added.

The district is offering two options for meal distribution: Curbside pickup and home delivery. Froke said about 350 families are taking advantage of the home-delivery option, with six buses driven by district drivers handling the delivery routes.

Families have three options when choosing curbside pickup:

  • Richwood Store, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday;
  • Detroit Lakes High School, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday;
  • and the parent dropoff lane at Roosevelt Elementary/Detroit Lakes Middle School, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Each package includes lunch for that day, and breakfast for the next morning. Meal pickup or delivery is offered to any enrolled student in the district, age 18 and younger. Parents who would like to be added to the home delivery schedule should contact the district's food service office at 218-847-2309 or foodservice@detlakes.k12.mn.us.

School board meeting changes

The COVID-19 outbreak has also affected how the district's school board and administration conduct business: The board's April 13 work session has been canceled, and the April 20 regular meeting will be conducted remotely, with most board members accessing the meeting via phone, video chat or something similar.

"The requirement for them to participate is that they are able to hear, and be heard," Froke said.

"Obviously, crowd limitations and social distancing will mean that the meeting will be closed to the public, but we are working on it being either streamed live or recorded for broadcast," he continued, adding that information on how members of the public can access the meeting, be it through Facebook Live, YouTube or some other streaming service, will be made available soon.