Wadena-Deer Creek students are back in school without COVID restrictions

Wadena-Deer Creek welcomed six new teachers to help teach a growing number of students for the 2022-2023 school season.

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Wadena-Deer Creek third-grade teacher Summer Hagensick points to students to ask them to introduce themselves on the first day of school on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal
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WADENA — "This is going to be the best day!" proclaimed new third-grade teacher Summer Hagensick at the start of her Wadena-Deer Creek elementary school career on the first day of school, Tuesday, Sept. 6.
With walls decorated in fun colors and a collage of reminders to be grateful, kind and respectful, she and the class were ready to embark upon a new year together — in person and without social distancing.
Hagensick teaches one of five third-grade sections at WDC, where the total school enrollment is expected to start at 1,050 students this year.
The classrooms were filled with chatter, as some students finished their breakfasts at their desks. Others appeared to be not quite adjusted to the new schedule, with that just-awoken look upon them. Not all students were excited for the new year.
"I woke up and felt like I had to throw up," said one of the students during introductions. But that may have had more to do with her dog laying on her than being nervous about school.
Others jubilantly jumped from the bus and into the loving arms of staff, eager to return to their teachers and friends.

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Michelle Sundby and Tara VanOrsdel welcome Wesley back to school in the bus parking lot area of the Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School. He ran from the bus to give them a hug as soon as he saw them.
Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

Sightings of face masks were extremely rare this year as the school has made the move back to normal settings and away from the COVID-19 precautions of previous years. There is no distance learning option this year. Masks are optional. There are no social distancing requirements in place, though stickers on the floor still offer guidance for staying on one side of the hallway or another — helpful guidance in most high traffic situations.
Still, the guidance is in place that all COVID positive students and/or staff need to stay home from school for 5 days after becoming symptomatic. The superintendent reserves the right at any time to implement health strategies based on the spread of any illness through a classroom, or school facility.
The change back to more normal, is welcome by school administration.
"We are looking forward to a school year without Covid disruptions," WDC superintendent Lee Westrum said Tuesday. The last two years have been a series of almost endless schedule changes, as this and other schools across the country pivot to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
This year, instead of public health, the district gets to focus on matter of education. The elementary is piloting new reading programs across the entire kindergarten through sixth grade.
The school has welcomed new staffing as well including: Kristin Schock - PreK, Missy Stevens - PreK, Brooklyn Huttunen - Elementary SPED, Angie Donnay - Elementary SPED, Summer Hagensick - third grade, Carly Carkhuff - third grade and Robert Brostrom - Transportation Director.
One other significant initiative parents have dealt with this year is a $50 technology fee that the school board implemented for every student. That fee is waived if an application for free and reduced lunch is submitted — even if the family doesn't qualify.
If all goes well, staff will be keeping the ship steady until the last day of school currently scheduled for June 1.

He's a writer, editor, photographer, truth seeker and promoter of the Wadena area.
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