Last Friday, April 24, Governor Tim Walz held a press conference where he announced that schools would continue to be closed through the end of the current school year to due COVID-19.

Last Friday, April 24, Governor Tim Walz held a press conference where he announced that schools would continue to be closed through the end of the current school year to due COVID-19.

“The first segment of distance learning will come to an end on April 30,” said Dr. Luther Heller, Superintendent of Montevideo Schools. “Our staff will spend May 1st and 4th, a Friday and Monday, preparing for the remainder of the school year.”

Heller stated it is very likely that it will be a similar educational format for the final month of the year as it was during the month of April.

“There will, however, be increased emphasis placed upon communications with students and parents and a very serious look to make sure that we don’t have any groups of students that are not engaged in the educational process,” said Heller.

According to Heller, the challenge that the staff now faces is the same challenge they faced during the initial month of distance learning.

“Our staff is doing a remarkable job of stepping up and meeting the needs of students. It has not been an easy task for them and they are to be commended for their effort that is being put forward to meet the needs of the students,” he said.

For the graduating class of 2020, the closure of the remaining school year poses other challenges regarding events such as prom and graduation.

“Prom is most likely canceled, and we are awaiting word from the state as to what is allowable after May 4 when the stay at home order expires,” said Scott Hickey, principal of Montevideo High School. “As with everything, we will follow all laws, orders, and guidelines as it pertains to the health and safety of our students, their families, and the community as a whole. Unfortunately there are not many alternatives to prom, and everything about prom goes against social distancing guidelines.”

According to Hickey, the district is currently looking into other ways to celebrate the spirit of prom in some other way.

All other senior events, through social distancing, will happen in some way, and they have been researching and discussing ideas since social distancing was enacted.

“We are now creating committees of students, parents and staff to examine what the individual student committees are planning, and how we can make those plans a reality to the best of our ability. We are thinking outside of the box and trying to find fun and effective ways to have all of the senior activities take place. Our expectation is that all events will take place, but may look differently than they have in the past,” Hickey said.

In addition to the senior students, parents, along with teachers are sad that the events will have to be celebrated in a much different way this year.

He said, “We know our students are disappointed, as well as their parents. We are disappointed, too.

“However,” Hickey continued, “we will make the best of this. This is a good time to teach some valuable lessons. When life throws us something beyond our control, we can adapt and overcome! The end of senior year this year may not be a “typical” ending to a senior year in Montevideo. However, we will do whatever we can to make it fun and memorable for our seniors.”

Hickey also stated that distance learning has been successful and is able to be utilized through the end of the school year.

“The majority of our students are performing well! At this time we need to adapt and find ways to assist our students that are struggling with distance learning,” he said. “We must not forget that we have students that struggle when regular school is in session, so it is not surprising that we have students that are struggling with distance learning.”

Hickey added that having a skilled educator in a classroom with the students is the most productive environment for teachers to teach and for students to learn.

“However, I do see that our staff, district-wide, are doing amazing things! Students are learning and being very successful!”

Overall, Hickey said that the first month of distance learning was very successful. The new challenge is now to build on that success, and find ways to help the students that are struggling become more successful as well before the conclusion of the school year.

Though the seniors are unable to graduate under normal circumstances, Hickey is optimistic.

“We are disappointed that they will not have the same experiences as every other graduating class, but we are determined to make their last month of school memorable and fun, and send them off right!”

Regarding the start of the next school year, Heller said that there has been some speculation as to what the start of the next school year might be like.

“At this point, there are too many unknowns to discuss that with accuracy. Administratively, we have begun to talk about possible options, but not knowing what the state of the pandemic will be at that time, makes it very difficult to do much planning. As we move into summer and watch the progress of the pandemic, we will be able to begin to formulate some plans,” Heller said.

According to Bob Grey Activities Director for Montevideo Schools and Principal of the Sanford Education Center, the same goes for spring activities.

“All spring activities have been canceled by the MSHSL. It is sad that these kids lost an opportunity to participate in their spring activities, and for seniors, their last opportunity after participating for many years,” said Grey. “They will be remembered not for what they did in their activity, but for what they sacrificed for the safety of our community, and for that they will always be remembered.”

Grey also said that summer activities, such as Summer Rec, are undecided as of now, as the state waits to see whether the governor will extend the stay at home order after May 4.

“We are planning on continuing to teach Drivers Education remotely using Google Meet, similar to the way we are doing distance learning for the remainder of the school year.”

At this point, Grey said, that is the only activity they are fairly certain they will be operating.

“The status of Thunder Hawk care for the summer is also undecided as of now; again, that is dependent on what the next executive order does to outline what can and cannot be done.”

At a press conference last Friday, Governor Walz commented on the status of the school closure and gave his condolences to those who will be unable to participate in activities for the remainder of the school year.

“It was an incredibly hard decision,” stated Walz. “I know there were a lot of tears shed over this; I’ve heard stories of athletes sitting out on softball diamonds thinking about what could have been. Please accept my deepest thoughts for all of you on this, that I know it can feel like such an incredible loss, but we’ve got strong, resilient people with great optimism and we’ll get through this, but we need to think about how this is affecting communities across the state.”

Walz continued to comment on distance learning and thank educators, parents, bus drivers, and everyone involved for stepping up and doing what they can to continue giving the students the best educational experience they can under the current circumstances.