The first day of the 2021-22 academic year at Detroit Lakes Public Schools is officially Tuesday, Sept. 7 — but for students in grades K-5, classes won't begin until Thursday, Sept. 9.

This is because parents of students at both Rossman and Roosevelt Elementary schools will be meeting with their children's teachers on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 7-8.

The back-to-school conferences between parents and teachers will take place between 8 a.m.-6 p.m. on Tuesday, and 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. on Wednesday, with normal class schedules getting underway Thursday.

"We started it last year, with COVID, and the families really appreciated the one-on-one time with their children's teachers," said Detroit Lakes Superintendent Mark Jenson. "It helped them build a relationship and also to deal with some apprehensions they had ... so we decided to do it again this year."

Meanwhile, though classes will resume as usual for middle school students on Tuesday, the high school schedule will be a little different, Jenson noted.

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"The morning will be for 9th grade students only," said Jenson, adding that they would be meeting with their Link Crew mentors (students in grades 10-12 who will be mentoring them for the school year) and getting ready for classes in the new 9th Grade Academy wing.

The afternoon session, meanwhile, will be for all students in grades 9-12, with eight 15-minute periods set up to mimic the full-day, 8-period schedule. Students will meet with their teachers in each class to get opening-day assignments and educational materials before resuming normal class schedules on Wednesday.

New Detroit Lakes High School Principal Josh Omang addressed a gymnasium full of 9th grade students and parents at a Wednesday, Sept. 1 open house assembly. The open house also included tours of the newly renovated high school facilities as well as opportunities for students in grades 9-12 to sign up for extracurricular activities. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)
New Detroit Lakes High School Principal Josh Omang addressed a gymnasium full of 9th grade students and parents at a Wednesday, Sept. 1 open house assembly. The open house also included tours of the newly renovated high school facilities as well as opportunities for students in grades 9-12 to sign up for extracurricular activities. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

New Detroit Lakes High School Principal Josh Omang gave 9th grade students and their parents a little introduction to the Career Academy model of teaching during an open house at the high school on Wednesday, Sept. 1. A similar orientation session for students in grades 10-12 was held later in the evening, with both assemblies taking place in the "old" Ralph Anderson Gymnasium. The open house also offered an opportunity for students to sign up for extracurricular activities as well as get their class schedules and locker assignments. Tours of the school were also available.

The high school has been undergoing some major renovations this summer, including a new parking lot, commons and administration areas, CTE (career and technical education) wing, and the aforementioned 9th Grade Academy wing.

Some areas of Detroit Lakes High School, such as the new student commons, were still undergoing some last minute renovations this week in preparation for the start of fall classes on Tuesday, Sept. 7. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)
Some areas of Detroit Lakes High School, such as the new student commons, were still undergoing some last minute renovations this week in preparation for the start of fall classes on Tuesday, Sept. 7. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

"The construction crews will probably be working right up to the last minute (at the high school)," Jenson said, and indeed, there were some landscapers working out in front of the high school's new main entrance at the start of Wednesday night's open house.

Landscapers were busy making some last-minute additions to a green space outside the new entrance to Detroit Lakes High School at the start of a Wednesday, Sept. 1 open house to welcome back students and parents. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)
Landscapers were busy making some last-minute additions to a green space outside the new entrance to Detroit Lakes High School at the start of a Wednesday, Sept. 1 open house to welcome back students and parents. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

Construction of the new high school gymnasium is expected to be complete in November, just in time for the start of winter sports, Jenson added.

Class schedules and locker assignments were the main order of business at the Detroit Lakes Middle School open house, which was also held on Wednesday.

Students and parents filled the hallways of Detroit Lakes Middle School on Wednesday, Sept. 1, as they checked out the students' locker assignments during a back-to-school open house. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)
Students and parents filled the hallways of Detroit Lakes Middle School on Wednesday, Sept. 1, as they checked out the students' locker assignments during a back-to-school open house. (Vicki Gerdes / Tribune)

Middle school Principal Mike Suckert said that building's construction projects were essentially complete, with the latest renovations including new flooring in the commons area and a brand-new main staircase between the school's upper and lower levels, along with replacement of an adjacent railing.

Unlike last year, there is no in-school mask mandate in place for K-12 students this fall, Jenson said, though masks will still be required for students while riding the school's buses.

"It's a federal/CDC mandate," Jenson explained, adding that school buses are considered a form of public transportation.