In the beginning days of the Minnesota school closure, parents expressed appreciation for their children’s protection while also wondering about future closures, students missing school and their friends, economic impacts, child care and planning structure for their children in a time that feels like vacation.
When Gov. Tim Walz’s decision to close schools for eight days, from March 18 to March 27, was announced parents in the area weren’t surprised. Daryl Dunbar saw the trends as other states closed their schools and hopes the “unfortunate” yet “base case scenario” closure will “blow by, ideally.” Kim Guevara also sees the closure as helpful in protecting students, though her kids find the closure difficult.
“My kids don’t like it. My oldest don’t like it, she’s going to miss her friends. My youngest don’t like it because she has her friends and her teacher. And they just they don’t like it, they want school,” Guevara said.
The adjustment from children being in school to being at home has shown parents and students their interest in school, including the social aspects of friends and teachers, events like prom or attending and participating in sports.
“I know my kids are not excited about it. They love the school. I think the administration is doing a great job following all the guidelines and making sure all the kids are taken care of,” said Melissa Seelhammer, school board member. “It’s unfortunate. I hope that they can get back in this school year but it’s for the best of everyone in our community.”
Helena Lease’s three children have varying responses, including worry. Lease also finds the time feels like vacation, and that she already has child care since her husband is a farmer. When asked if the situation would change with a longer closure, Lease said there wouldn’t be much difference besides completing school work and missing friends.
“If it was long-term, yeah, it would stink because then they wouldn’t get to see their friends every day and this and that, but we’d get through it,” Lease said.
With students and teachers alike already missing school, the question is how long would another closure last? This question ran through seniors’ heads particularly as they processed the events and activities that could be canceled as well as lost time for memories with friends. When school board member and parent of a senior Vince Hinojos learned about the closure he was “saddened.”
“It’s our son’s senior year and so with that, he was looking forward to just that whole senior year, all the things that are involved with that, prom and last year being part of the track team that went to state and all those milestones that anybody could want in a senior year, so that’s really just a bummer,” Hinojos said.
The length of future closures also raises economic questions, as parents and grandparents Amber Siebert, David Sundheim and Charlotte Snook mentioned. David works as a self-employed window washer and Missy Sundheim works at the New York Mills Public Library which closed on March 17. As a window washer, David said businesses are closed or have different hours making it hard to ask businesses for money if they’re “pinched a little harder this time.”
“There’s ways, we’ll see, trying to be creative,” David said. “But I might have to just wash windows when no one’s there and then mail them bills later or something. We’ll see, but who wants to pay if they’re not there to enjoy the service either?”
As businesses and services in the Wadena area had to change their available options, Snook is also concerned about people purchasing services and products that are not considered necessities. Snook works from home and sells Pampered Chef items.
“The shutting everything down affects more because people are worried about their paychecks so then they don’t want to buy anything except for absolute necessities and so that makes other things hard … then there’s no money coming in,” Snook said.
The economic impacts are wrapped in endless scenarios, whether parents stay home with their children as they work, stay home because of a loss in job hours or simply because they have to until child care can be found. Guevara shared a future closure will require parents to find child care options that offer school work help or coordinate extra school work support for their children before and after work.
“The stay-at-home part’s going to be the hardest part for the parents, especially if they have to do it (school work) after work or before work and trying to find … day cares that will help them do it, to help with the school work if they go into a week after that,” Guevara said. “But if we all pull together, it should work out.”
Although students do not have assignments currently, some parents have begun using online tools while teachers prepare distance learning lessons and wait for further orders from Walz.
“I think (the school closure is) a good thing, it helps stop the spread before it even really starts here,” Siebert said. “There’s plenty of learning they can do at home. I don’t think it’s a big deal that they’re going to be out of school for a little while because there’s all those websites that they can go onto for learning.”
Snook has found reading and math information on different websites for her grandchildren to work on at home. Dunbar, Lease and Missy also mentioned the structure they hope to implement into their children’s days.
“The kids are like, ‘Ooh, yeah free days,’ … don’t get used to it, we’re going to have to start a routine,” Missy said.
As the eight days wane and the days bring continuous changes, parents and community members will experience new concerns and seem ready to take on the challenges.
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