Owatonna Public Schools will remain closed the rest of the year

In+order+to+prevent+COVID-19+Minnesota+schools+will+continue+distance+learning%0A

Designed Jack Kleeberger

In order to prevent COVID-19 Minnesota schools will continue distance learning

Jack Kleeberger, Writer

On Thursday, April 23, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz announced that public K-12 schools will remain closed the rest of the year. In an effort to continue social distancing and further flatten the curve, giving hospitals time to prepare for incoming patients. The current stay at home order is still set to end Monday, May 4. 

In a press conference Thursday, Governor Walz said, “As a former teacher, this is a heartbreaking decision, I am sorry for all of our students who will miss out on graduations, tournaments and end of the year celebrations.” However, the decision comes after Minnesota officially records 3,185 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 221 deaths. 

Commitment to COVID-19 Testing

Although these numbers aren’t pretty, Minnesota is currently leading the charge on the Coronavirus battlefield. In a previous press conference, Governor Walz set forth a statewide testing scheme. State government will be working in partnership with both the Mayo Clinic and the University of Minnesota to eventually achieve a daunting 40,000 tests per day. The so-called “Moon Shot” plan will be asking for 20,000 diagnostic tests and 15,000 antibody tests to be performed daily statewide. Antibody tests determine who has been exposed to the virus, while diagnostic tests determine who currently has the infection. Both of these are critical elements that will allow society to move forward and plan for the future. 

The rollout of this new testing agenda is presumed to take about a month’s time. It is expected that everyone who displays symptoms will, in fact, be granted a test under the new requirements. Governor Walz plans to pay for his “Moon Shot” agenda by using $36 million from a COVID-19 fund. Minnesota House leaders said funding for this plan was assured. 

The hope is that this testing breakthrough will drastically speed up the economic recovery and allow businesses to begin reopening and rebuilding. Nevertheless, the need for social distancing remains prominent. This was made clear when Mary Ricker of Minnesota’s Department of Education joined Governor Walz in announcing the decision to keep schools closed the rest of the year. 

Distance Learning extended through the end of the year

Back on the home front, the students and staff of Owatonna will continue to practice online learning. Administrators were made aware of the school closings the same day the general public was. OHS Principal Mr. Kory Kath said, “I am saddened that we will not come back together this year as a school family. It is hard to not have closure with all of the incredible students I have met and watch as the students celebrate the year together.” As of now, there is no plan for any extracurricular activities to be salvaged, and prom looks to be a thing of the past. Students will be receiving notice in a couple weeks as to when they can return school resources and pick up items they may have in lockers.  

I am excited to honor our seniors, and we will plan a commencement that gives them the recognition they deserve.”

— Principal Kory Kath

For nearly 100 years, the seniors of OHS have attended prom, bid farewell to their friends and teachers and walked across the stage at graduation. The Class of 2020 won’t be granted those same opportunities, leaving students and families wondering what the next couple months will have in store. As of now, there are plans to commemorate the Seniors. Principal Kath said, “I am excited to honor our seniors, and we will plan a commencement that gives them the recognition they deserve.” 

Friday, May 1, and Monday, May 4 will be teacher workdays. These days are for teachers to make plans to continue distance learning work for the rest of the year. OHS Administration and staff will utilize these two days to hand-deliver caps and gowns to all seniors at their homes and are planning a way to give special recognition. OHS is also currently in the planning stages of commencement that will provide a celebration for all seniors and allow them to receive their diploma while dressed in cap and gown.  

The long term effects that this pandemic will inflict on school lives is unknown. At such a consequential time in our history, people are learning to take life as it comes. Regarding the fate of next school year, Mr. Kath said, “We are very engaged with the information we are receiving from the state and will use the summer to plan accordingly, to ensure all of our students and staff are safe at school.” In the meantime, students are expected to continue their online learning May 5 through the end of the academic school year.