“If you want grace, you need to give grace.” This was the closing comment from a representative from the Minnesota Dept of Health. She stated this, as we concluded a two-hour webinar I attended on the COVID-19 Decision Tree for Minnesota K-12 schools and childcare released in late August. Since the closing of Minnesota schools and Stay at Home Order in March, Gov. Walz has asked childcare to remain open; at first just for essential care workers for these eight weeks. We were given grace by the families at Laker Prep who stuck with us and helped keep ALL of our staff on payroll by paying for care they weren’t even using. The families who had children continue to attend through this order, rolled with the punches each week. We had to rehash ever changing guidelines and procedures placed on us to slow the spread of COVID-19.

When May 18 arrived, we could finally allow more children and staff to return and were elated to see them! Yet, some did not return, but that was OK; each family needed to make the decision that was best for them. We needed to give grace.

Our summer was about giving grace; asking families/staff to add face masks to their daily routine, limit movement among children and staff between rooms, enhancing additional cleaning and hygiene routines, and understanding that everyone’s comfort level with these guidelines was changing daily. Yet we were able to access grants and funding to start recouping loss and growing payroll of additional staff needed, rising costs of PPE that we have always needed, even pre-COVID, and variances to help staff meet qualifications under our licensing … we were also receiving more grace.

September then arrived, and our own children at home were over the moon about starting school again. At Laker Prep, we made many phone calls to people who were previously interested in choosing us to care for their child, but with job changes and uncertainties of COVID-19, many had to pass. We had to give grace. I have multiple close friends and family that work in K-12 public schools all over Minnesota. As I chatted with many of them, entering a territory they have never visited, many were scared, worried, uncertain, but still anxious to see children again … they needed grace.

Now, going into MEA weekend, which is typically the first anticipated days off for the school year; yet Laker Prep experienced a first positive case (that’s a lot of people who haven’t been positive after eight months being open through all of this). We need grace. Grace because if the ‘Decision Tree’ tells you that several children and staff need to quarantine, you might not have enough staff to care for the remainder of the children. Grace because even when you’ve put every guideline into place, this virus can still sneak its way in, unannounced. In addition, Detroit Lakes public schools has notified families that all children will begin hybrid model beginning Oct. 19. This is not because Detroit Lakes public schools has had some recent positive cases. This is collectively because of the county’s positive cases. We need to give grace to our schools. Grace because many people who have tested positive have been doing all the right things. Grace when you think about the principals, teachers, superintendents, paras, administrators, and task force teams. They spend endless hours hashing out how these mandatory guidelines will affect the education of our youngest citizens and continue pressing on to make the best of it.

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As a person who is proud to have been born, raised, graduated, and returned to the Detroit Lakes area, I know we are all capable of giving grace, and all deserve to receive it. Let’s practice actions we can take that drives the momentum of our community forward; focus on and share information that benefits only the good of the whole; and assume that each person is doing the very best they can, at that given moment. When we do this, we will truly act as though we believe that we will get through this together as a Detroit Lakes community, and soon.