Meeting remotely for the first time, the Detroit Lakes School Board did not reach a decision Monday night, April 20, on whether to reschedule, or cancel, either Detroit Lakes High School's prom or graduation festivities due to concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
"If the decision keeps getting delayed from the governor (on whether to resume classes and activities, or continue the shutdown through the end of the school year), at some point are we just going to make a decision and try to do something creative?" asked board member April Thomas. "Or are we really just holding (off) to wait to hear from the governor? ... I just really feel for people out there trying to make plans and salvage some sort of senior year experience for their kids."
Superintendent Doug Froke said the Department of Education and superintendents "from Lake Benton to Roseau" have been in discussions throughout the pandemic situation about holding ceremonies and events and, specifically, the ability to practice social distancing if such gatherings were held. He told the board it's a difficult call because some larger school districts might have the space to accommodate social distancing but smaller, neighboring districts may not.
Froke added that he expects Gov. Tim Walz to reach some sort of decision on whether to resume classes and activities at schools across the state on May 5 — when the current stay-at-home order expires — sometime this week.
Board Chairwoman Amy Erickson added that they also had the option to schedule a special meeting to finalize the district’s plans for the balance of the school year once the governor has announced what the state’s plans will be.
Also at Monday's meeting, the board voted to continue to meet via teleconference “or some other electronic means” until further notice. All of the actions taken by the board at the meeting were done via roll call vote, with only board member John Steffl being unable to attend due to "technical difficulties," according to Erickson.
Members of the public were watching the proceedings via a Facebook Live stream; it was announced during the meeting that viewership had hit a peak of 108 viewers at one point, though toward the end that number had tapered off to 83.
Much of the meeting involved discussion of the district’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the doors of school facilities were closed to the public March 17, the district has been distributing an average of 9,300 meals to students per week, via curbside pickup and home delivery, and offering day care to upward of 30 children of emergency workers at three different school sites: Lincoln Education Center, Rossman Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary.
Froke announced during the meeting that as of Monday, all day care programming had been transferred to the Boys & Girls Club of Detroit Lakes, and thanked the club and its staff for its use.
"That has worked out well," Froke said. "We liked the idea of the kids being on one campus and that was certainly a great gift from the Boys & Girls Club."
Education Director Renee Kurzman also updated the board on how the district's distance learning programming has been going since it began March 30.
Froke cautioned that while the programming has been going well, it was intended to be temporary and "is in no way meant to replace what was in the traditional everyday classroom.
"We do not want this to be confused with any form of online learning — this is not online learning," he added — however, "the results from our surveys (of parents and students) are coming back very positive, and the reason is our teachers are doing a good job of delivering instruction in a way that is not overwhelming, and making sure they check in with (their students) regularly."
A complete recording of Monday's meeting is available at the Detroit Lakes Public Schools Facebook page.