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January 18, 2021

11/11/2020 9:48:00 AM
Schools are doing OK
I'm working on a story about COVID cases in Cottonwood County schools that will run next week. But I'm going to give you a sneak peak at what will be coming.
If you didn't realize it, our county's schools are doing not just "pretty" good when it comes to keeping COVID-19 outside its walls, but "very" good.
COVID-19 cases in the county spiked over the weekend, with 51 cases reported from Friday noon to Monday noon. That included 20 cases reported on Saturday and 18 more on Sunday.
That got us to wondering, is the same thing happening in schools?
When contacted Monday, Windom and Westbrook-Walnut Grove reported just one active case each. Mt. Lake had six active cases - all students - with four occurring in just the last week.
Hats off to everyone who works in the school. The measures administration, teachers, custodial staff, food service, school nursing and paraprofessionals have had to do to keep students in school have been phenomenal.
And it's not only showing in the numbers, but also recognized by the public.
A recent survey conducted by Windom Area Schools focused on how the district was doing during the first eight weeks of school. The survey was sent to students, parents and staff. Superintendent Wayne Wormstadt highlighted the comments provided by parents regarding the efforts to keep kids in school during Monday's school board meeting.
"The best part of the survey from our parents - and I asked our staff to take some time and read it - is the comments about our staff, not just teachers, but everybody," Wormstadt told the board. "They went through the list of things (staff) are doing and how appreciative people are. It was a nice pick-me-up for our staff to see that our parents are appreciating the efforts they are doing to make sure their kids are in school.
"I've been saying, kids in school is the best thing, not just for the kids. It's great for teachers and it's great for our community, too, for routine and structure. It builds a sense of order and we're finding out from our data, that it's a safe place to be."
Schools need to be applauded for the efforts they've taken to keep kids in school. However, this is only the first quarter of the school year. We've still got three quarters to go. If we let down our guard now, especially with holiday celebrations just around the corner, it will all be for naught.
Keep wearing the masks, socially distancing and employing good hygiene, if for no other reason than for kids' sake.
WWG Superintendent Loy Woelber pointed that some superintendents in Southwest Minnesota are wondering if they should wait with a return to school after Thanksgiving, or take an extra long break between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Admittedly, Thanksgiving get-togethers with extended family could result in more community spread, which could filter into schools.
One may wonder if distance learning between the two holidays might be a better course of action.
Woelber believes that could do more harm than good, especially in his district where 60% of students are on the free and reduced lunch program.
"There's not a lot of happiness between Thanksgiving and Christmas unless there's a Christmas tree at the school and some decorations or there's a Secret Santa - some of those things. I don't want them sitting at home until Christmas. That's why we're going to stay in school as long as we can," Woelber maintains.
And that's the approach all of the county's school superintendents have taken.
I think if you ask students how much they liked distance learning last spring, at least 80% will tell you it wasn't good, 10% didn't mind it and did OK and the other 10% probably liked it, but didn't have the grades to back it up.
Help keep kids in school.

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