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Swinging into summer: Detroit Lakes elementary students celebrate their last school days until next fall

Rope swings, monkey bars and climbing walls -- the last days of school for Detroit Lakes elementary students were filled with smiles and a much deserved promise of summer vacation after completing their first, full year of in-person classes since 2019.

A second grade student at Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes climbs the warped wall during the last day of school celebration, featuring a Ninja Anywhere obstacle course, on May 26, 2022.
A second grade student at Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes climbs the warped wall during the last day of school celebration, featuring a Ninja Anywhere obstacle course, on May 26, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES — With inflatables, a warped-wall and a series of dexterous bars and rings, students at Roosevelt and Rossman elementary schools in Detroit Lakes celebrated the last days of the school year with athletic fun.

The obstacles were set up in the school parking lots at Rossman Elementary, on May 25, and Roosevelt Elementary, on May 26, much to the excitement of the students. Each grade level was given about 45 minutes to run, jump, swing and climb on the course.

Lynn Cihak, second grade teacher at Roosevelt, said that for her students, this is the first, full, normal school year the kids have had since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the obstacle course was a much-deserved reward to kick off their summers.

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A second grade student at Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes swings on the monkey bars during the last day of school celebration, featuring the Ninja Anywhere obstacle course, on May 26, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"It's great to be able to make it a full year, and things are getting kind of back to normal," she said. "(The students) are so excited about (the obstacle course), to be able to come out and have this opportunity to be so active and our (parent-teacher organization) was great putting it on. This is awesome."

Cihak also added that this was a very important year for her students because many of them were behind where they should have been at the start of the year, and she's so proud of how much they learned throughout the year.

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"We saw a lot where (the students) really weren't where they should be at the beginning of the year, so one thing I noticed was the tremendous growth that our students had this year," she said. "I have a couple of kids now that are having a really hard time saying goodbye. It's the end of the year and they aren't ready to be done."

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A second grade student at Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes jumps off a spring board during the last day of school celebration, featuring the Ninja Anywhere obstacle course, on May 26, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

It was also the return of field trips, something her students hadn't yet experienced. One of her favorite memories was taking the kids to Itasca State Park because they seemed to appreciate the adventure more after not having any outings for the previous two years.

"They had the stamina, they went the full distance," said Cihak. "In kindergarten, they didn't get to go the full distance, first grade was an abnormal year, and this year, the first part of the year was just building their stamina and getting it to where they knew they could handle the full rest of the year and things weren't going to change, and the rug wasn't going to get pulled out from them."

The principal at Rossman, Emily Sternberg, finished her first year as principal and said her students have also grown this year.

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Second grade students at Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes swing on rings attached to a pole during the last day of school celebration, featuring the Ninja Anywhere obstacle course, on May 26, 2022
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"As I reflect on the year, we've come leaps and bounds in so many ways, and it's because of the people we have here," said Sternberg. "Everybody pulls together and there's just incredible support here to make sure our kids have the best experiences day-in and day-out, and it really does take the village of the Rossman team to make sure that happens for the kids."

Sternberg also said she is going to be hosting a weekly event at the City Park for kids and adults every Wednesday, from 10:30-11:30 a.m., called Principal in the Park.

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Second grade students at Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes climb an inflatable wall during the last day of school celebration on May 26, 2022, featuring the Ninja Anywhere obstacle course.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

"My initiative with that is to share books for all levels for K-5 kids," she said. "Share some books that will spark imagination or reflection in learning and then also give away some free books, if we have some kids that come."

Rossman students enjoyed their Ninja Anywhere on Wednesday, even though the high temperature only reached 59 degrees.

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The parking lot obstacle course probably gave the students memories that will last a lifetime, said Tate Torgerson, co-operator of Ninja Anywhere.

"No matter if (the students) are athletic or un-athletic, they always try to keep going and do something better, and faster, than they just did prior," said Torgerson. "Watching the joy on their faces... it's just so memorable and they don't forget it."

He said he knew it was going to be a memorable last couple days of the school year when he saw the kids peeking out of the windows of the buses in the morning with overjoyed, excited looks on their faces.

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Gabby Torgerson, co-operator of Ninja Anywhere, gives a safety briefing to second graders at Roosevelt Elementary in Detroit Lakes during the last day of school celebration on May 26, 2022.
Michael Achterling / Detroit Lakes Tribune

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