MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — After six months of being out of the classroom, fifth grader Wren is back to school at Laketown Elementary in Waconia.
“She missed the novelty of a school curriculum and her teachers and her classmates tremendously,” Wren’s mother Christi Catron said.
Catron says she and her daughter had conversations about how to stay healthy like wearing a mask and washing hands, but she said Tuesday was about making sure her daughter was excited to start a new school year.
“She wore her Wildcat sweatshirt and we took the first school photo,” Catron said. “She said goodbye to her dog who has been her faithful study companion for the last six months.”
There are 500 students at Laketown Elementary and 4,100 in the Waconia district. The Waconia Public Schools superintendent says some parents chose to do private schools or homeschooling this year.
“We’re running around 5 to 10% less students this year because there’s a little bit of anxiety and we understand that,” superintendent Pat Devine said.
Right now K-6 go in person five days a week, learning in pods that stay together. Grades 7-12 are in a hybrid model. Laketown Elementary’s principal says the elementary school was able to go back fully in person because of the space in the school. Common areas are now larger classrooms to allow for social distancing.
“You’ll see that our cafe where we ate lunches is a music classroom now,” principal Keith Baune said. “Our students can spread out and use the whole building.”
The district follows the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Health if there’s a COVID-19 case.
“There’s no magic number that they have given us,” Devine said. “It’s going to be scenario by scenario and there’s a regional support team that will come in and determine what you need to do.”
Laketown Elementary pushed back its start time this year to 8:30 a.m., which allows the additional bus routes to stay at 50% capacity and get students to school on time. There are also sanitizing and hand washing stations.
The school also surveyed parents in making plans for the school year. Families that want distant learning were still given the option. Roughly 10% of parents chose to keep their children in a fully distant model for the school year.