COVID-19 shuts down the Owatonna School District until Monday, March 30

IT+specialist%2C+Ben+Schmidt%2C+hands+a+computer+and+charger+to+senior+Aidan+Cords+

Logan McGaheran

IT specialist, Ben Schmidt, hands a computer and charger to senior Aidan Cords

Ethan Rohman, Writer

On Sunday, March 15, Owatonna High School announced that the school will be closed from March 18 and March 30 because of the recent COVID-19 outbreak. As of the release date of this article, there are 35 cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota. The school is making preparations for this time away from school. The school will provide a computer for students without a home device in grades 6-12, and Charter Spectrum has offered free WiFi for those in need. This will allow students in grades 6-12 to continue their education. The next two weeks will be used by staff and administration to organize all pieces of the puzzle that is “distance learning.” 

COVID-19 is transmitted very easily, and these encouragements to stay home are not to protect the students whose immune systems are strong enough to fight the virus; they are to protect those with underlying conditions and weakened immune systems. Also, shutting down schools will keep teachers healthy and able to educate students.  Additionally, all sports and activities for ISD 761 have been suspended until further notice.  More info will be coming as updates are needed. 

On Monday, March 16, schools handed out computers to students who need them in grades 6-12, and with this classroom expectations will be made clear. The majority of communication between students and teachers will take place through email. Once the bell rang for the start of the first hour, students were sent to the gymnasium by last name to confirm that they had a device at home or to borrow one from the school. There are lines of 15 people getting ready to check out a computer. Mrs. Ann Watts helped direct students to the correct line which was associated with each grade level. Although there was a consistent stream of people entering the gym, the lines moved quickly.

The quarter is supposed to change on Monday, March 30; however, with the school closing on Wednesday there will be a transition period on Tuesday for students to speak with their fourth-quarter teachers and set up lines of communication. Each quarter class will have an opportunity to switch the last 20 minutes of the hour on Tuesday, March 17. Principal Kory Kath said, “During the last 20 minutes of each class period, we are going to have students go to their 4th quarter class if they would have one. Teachers may have some materials for students.” 

In classes, teachers were setting online expectations for their students, but they were also treating it as a normal day because they still have a lot of curriculum they have to teach. Teachers are still expected to have quarter three grades posted by Friday, March 20. Mr. Kath said, “On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday teachers will be able to prepare for online learning.” Elementary school teachers have a complicated obstacle ahead of them: they have to distribute education materials to students who may not have access to computers at home. Mrs. Gail Tratz said, “I believe that students will achieve a lot if they set a routine for their days of online learning.”

 

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday teachers will be able to prepare for online learning.”

— Principal Kory Kath

Similar to summer, there will be lunch service sites open in the district.  “Grab and Go” sack lunches will be available at Wilson Elementary School, McKinley Elementary, and Owatonna Middle School for all students 18 and under. Students have to be present at the time of pick up. Services for ELL and Special Education Students will be provided, and they will be communicated to those families as soon as possible. 

The seriousness of this virus can not be underestimated. When asked about the severity of the situation Kath said, “I hope that students recognize that when the governor and the Minnesota Department of Health come forward and say the whole concept of COVID-19 is serious enough to close for this number of days. That also means that we have to make the best choices possible.”  At this time, classes are expected to resume on Monday, March 30.  Stay Tuned to OHS Magnet for updates as they are available.