The first week of school is nearly in the books, and the principals at Crookston High School, Washington, and Highland shared some thoughts on the first day of school.  All three were appreciative of the efforts made by students and parents to support the school through the changes that have been put in place.

Crookston High School Principal Eric Bubna said its been fun having kids back in the building and that all the preparation through the summer seems to be paying off even as they continue to work through some technology issues. “The first thing is it’s been so fun to have kids back in the building,” said Bubna. “After the summer, really more than summer with the distance learning in the spring, it’s been great having the kids back. And it’s gone a lot smoother than what I thought. I was like my word, this is going to be a huge adjustment, and it has been, but getting kids logged in has worked pretty smoothly. The phone has been ringing pretty steadily the first few days as we try to get all the tech issues worked out. The kids are getting logged in. The teachers have done a great job making sure the distance learning kids are getting in and that they’ve got online stuff. We’ve put a lot of type and prep into this, and it seems to be paying off. So far, so good.”

Each morning students have their temperature checked, in addition to other changes such as having to wear masks and follow social distancing.  Bubna said the kids have been great about wearing masks and following the guidelines while staff have been awesome in figuring out how to take attendance with only half the students in the building. “The temperature checks in the morning have gone smooth,” said Bubna. “We’ve added a lunch to make sure we have kids spaced out well at lunch. That created a little bit of a scheduling issue, but it’s been a good thing. That’s obviously a time you have to watch that close contact because it’s more than 15 minutes. The kids have been great about the masking. They’ve been spreading out when we ask them to, so I’ve really been appreciative of the effort the kids have put in to follow the guidelines. The teachers have been awesome about figuring out how we’re doing the attendance for the kids that are here and not. But again, it’s refreshing to see the kids back in the building and to remember what we’re doing this for.”

Bubna noted that the parents have been very supportive of the changes the school has made and thanked them for all the extra work they’ve put in as well. “A big thank you to the parents,” said Bubna. “I know this has been an adjustment for them. We’re not allowing drop-off at our normal time, they’ve got to do the screening stuff at home, and they’ve got their kids at home certain days. Yeah, we’ve had a lot of work we’ve had to put into this as a school but so have the parents. And they’ve just stepped up to the plate and been awesome. So, thank you to the parents and the community for the support you’ve shown our school.”

Highland Elementary Principal Chris Trostad said things continue to improve day to day, especially with the logistics of student drop-off and pickup. “Sort of like sports, they say your most improvement is from game one to game two, and definitely, the most improvement is from day one to day two,” said Trostad. “We appreciate the patience of the parents on the parking, pickup, drop-off. I think things have really improved, especially day three. We continue to add some things. The pickup and drop-off, particularly the drop-off, have always been a challenge at Highland because the drop-off area is such a small area for the parents. We provided an overflow, so when cars are in the street, and we have overflowed with preferably no buses in front, we’re allowing cars in front. This morning worked the best I think ever seen it in my seven years.”

Trostad said there are still a few kinks to work out, but overall, he’s pretty impressed with where things stand. “I think we’re figuring out some kinks, some typing errors maybe in usernames and passwords for getting kids on distance learning,” said Trostad. “We’re getting those worked out and been pretty impressed with kids joining in, in the classroom during whole group instruction. For me, as a principal, I’m worried about logistics right away, so the bus drop-off/pickup, busing, lunch, and distance learning. It’s kind of coming together, but we appreciate the patience of parents until we get it all going. But it seems to be rolling pretty darn good. Pretty impressed with where we’re at right now. There are still a few kinks to work out, but for the most part, we’re just thrilled to death to have kids back in school. And to have those distance learners interacting live with the teacher and the rest of their class.”

Washington School Principal Denice Olive said they’re so excited to have kids back in school and for it to be a fun, safe place for students. “We are so excited and happy to be in school and have our students back,” said Oliver. “It’s been six months, and, of course, we missed them. And I know they missed school as well. The start of our year has been unbelievably calm and has gone smoother than we could’ve dreamt or expected. I mentioned to Dr. (Jeremy) Olson, our superintendent, that it feels like we’ve been planning for the first day of school for six months, and really if you think about it, so much has changed in the world, and so much of school has changed because we want everyone to stay safe. Yet, we want the school to continue to be a fun place to be.”

Oliver said the kindergarteners have been little superheroes wearing their masks to protect each other. “We did put together a bunch of safety protocols for students, including social distancing in the classrooms, hallways, cafeteria,” said Oliver. “We have a sanitation protocol we’re using in the evening after the students leave. It’s been a great start. We didn’t know what to think with kindergarten. Kindergarten is required to wear masks and think of five-year-olds wearing masks all day. They have been like little superheroes wearing their masks because they have doing a great job wearing their masks. We say they’re kind of superheroes, super friends by being safe and keeping their masks on.”

Oliver also noted that parents have been patient during drop-off and pickup as the school gets everything sorted out before preschool begins on Monday to add more excitement to the building. “Our pickup and drop-off of parents in the morning and afternoon has gone so well,” said Oliver. “I think part of that is because people are taking their time and being so patient with us letting us get used to these first couple days of school. It really has gone well. We start school readiness next week with our three- and four-year-olds. That will create another level of excitement in the school, so we’re looking forward to them coming back to school soon.”

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