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June 5, 2020

5/15/2020 10:33:00 AM
Area high schools graduation decisions pending

With a little over a couple of weeks left in the 2019-2020 school year;  the North Branch and Chisago Lakes schools have tackled the final iteration of  their mandatory “distance learning plans” and are anticipating the last day of the strangest school year ever.  

District officials now have the perhaps impossible task of designing a graduation event, without bringing alot of people together in close proximity.

A couple hundred seniors in each high school graduating class are awaiting an announcement on what their commencement is going to look like.  

Will it resemble a reverse parade like some districts have declared-- with graduates spaced at a distance along a route as vehicles drive past carrying well-wishers? Maybe the whole thing will just be postponed for a few months for a wait and see approach?  Or do local students want a video memento, with  images of individual graduates collected digitally?  

Forest Lake High School’s announced June 5  commencement is allowing students and/or family members, in a vehicle, drive-around in the bus lane of the high school to nab diplomas at the school’s front door, after watching a live stream of individual speeches, etc in the parking lot.

Both Chisago Lakes and North Branch leaders say no decision has been made.  

Superintendent Dean Jennissen said Chisago Lakes was waiting on guidance promised from the MN Department of Education that came Friday last week and basically it amounted to no indoor ceremonies that require crowds or outdoors where distances can not be maintained.  The stay-home executive order is slated to expire May 18 which could possible alter some guidelines.

Supt. Jennissen said in an e mail exchange that the district is”...committed to do our very best for them (grads)and that requires all of the information we can gather informing our decision.”

North Branch School Board meets tonight (May 14) and no agenda items reference any discussion on commencement, according to district spokesperson Patrick Tepoorten.  
A statement from Superintendent Dr. Deb Henton assures citizens that the district is working “...to develop a safe, memorable event,” adding “we will have a graduation of some kind.”

School buildings were closed and Distance Learning was begun in its initial stage in Minnesota March 27.  The Governor and Commissioner of the Department of Education ordered that instruction be given at a distance for a few weeks, which was then extended in a second order at the end of April to the school year’s end.

Chisago Lakes put out a quick electronic survey to get some feedback on the first stage of the distance learning plan, asking what could be improved, and Jennissen said they got 645 survey responses that helped guide this stage two.    

Schools were allotted a couple of distance learning plan prep dates, so there was no school on May 1 and 4.

** In Chisago Lakes there is a staff development day May 22 on the regular calendar which is still going to be a no-school day.  No child care will be provided either.

Districts were also directed to be offering space in their before and after-school programs for essential workers’ children, ages 4 through 12, during the covid-19 stay-at- home period.  

As of May 5 North Branch is utilizing Youth Connections sites for this, 674-1029 at the education center on Grand Avenue and St John’s Church in Stacy.
Chisago Lakes’ child care is unchanged from stage one.

Food available still
North Branch continues with several locations where food can be picked up by district families needing it.  School bus drivers deliver to select locations in Harris, Almelund, in urban North Branch (Casselberry, Countryside Mobile Home Park and a new site in Central Park) plus in the Stacy Trailer Park.  Distribution of grab and go meals are Monday, Wednesday and Fridays from 9 to 10 a.m. and 2 to 3 p.m.  Chisago Lakes has a form that needs to be filled out on the school webpage at www.isd2144.org and provides directions and times for food distribution locations nearest you.  

There is no income eligibility information required to benefit from these nutrition programs.

One deadline to be aware of is getting authorization to be in the Post Secondary Education Option for next year--districts must know you are enrolling by May 30. Contact your high school counselor.

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