West Central Area Schools

Serving the communities of Barrett, Elbow Lake, Hoffman, Kensington & Wendell

TO:  WCA Families

FROM:  Dale Hogie, Superintendent

DATE:  March 16, 2020

Hello WCA families.  Minnesota residents and our Nation are experiencing an unprecedented medical uncertainty.  Our state and national leaders have consistently cited precaution in their messages.  On both the national and state level, government leaders and health department personnel repeatedly state their goal is to slow the spread of COVID-19.  They also encourage us to remain calm and to implement the safe practices we have been encouraged to use for decades.

I will not attempt to address the specific medical aspects of COVID-19 or the number of cases within the United States or Minnesota.  That information is readily available from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and our news agencies.  Based upon information provided by MDH and the CDC; the Minnesota Governor’s Office, the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota State High School League have all provided guidance and directives to school districts.  WCA administrators will continue their planning within the established guidelines and I will provide updated information as it becomes available.

A WCA administrative team met Sunday afternoon to begin planning for this week.  Our immediate concerns were related to nutrition and childcare for our students.

Meal Availability:  Beginning Wednesday, March 18 lunch and a breakfast will be provided for students in the WCA school district for each family that makes a request.  For families with limited transportation availability, delivery options will be arranged. Logistics of availability and delivery will depend upon requests and families will be notified of an initial delivery schedule.

Daycare for Emergency Workers:  Also beginning on Wednesday, March 18 free daycare for children of household members who are identified as emergency staff will be available.  Daycare hours will be 7:00 AM to 5:30 PM for each day school was scheduled to be in session.  The broadly defined group includes:

  • Health care providers and systems, including hospitals and clinics
  • Post-acute and long-term care facilities, including nursing and assisted living facilities
  • Home Care workers o Personal Care Assistants
  • Ambulance/emergency o Direct Care and Treatment Other emergency staff
  • First responders
  • Firefighters
  • Law enforcement personnel and personnel providing correctional services
  • Essential Court personnel
  • Minnesota State Veterans Homes staff
  • State and local public health agency employees
  • MNsure Navigators
  • County financial/eligibility workers and County case managers
  • Any county staff in emergency management or health and human services
  • WCA School Staff 

Any family desiring meals or daycare must complete the online survey that was sent to each household or complete and return a paper survey made available in each office. 

Make-up Days:  Governor Walz has ordered schools closed from March 18 through March 27 and teachers have been instructed to plan during that time period to prepare to provide lessons conducive to distance learning.  Students will not be required to make those days up.

Distance Learning Instruction:  Our administrative team focus has been on family welfare and  accommodating WCA students and their families.  We understand this change will be much more difficult for some families and we wanted to address as many of the immediate obstacles as we could.

Building administrators will work with instructors as they begin planning for distance learning on Wednesday, March 18.  There are many unanswered questions, but through collaboration our administrators are confident we can make this work.  Key issues that will be addressed include when and how will paper copies of work be sent home and returned.  Another immediate obstacle to address is identifying families that do not have internet and developing alternatives for those students.

Spring Sports:  The Minnesota State High School League has taken steps to slow the spread of COVID-19.  They have suspended all spring sports and activities until March 30.  This includes contests, practices, banquets, fundraisers, etc.  This action is consistent with our WCA position of not having events on days when school is not is session or dismissed early due to inclement weather.  Both on based on safety.  Currently, practices may begin on March 30 and contests may begin April 6.

Correspondence from Principals:  Information for District updates has been collectively prepared by our WCA Administrative Team.  During the remainder of March, you can expect information to be provided to you by our principals and other WCA staff.

Summary:  We are experiencing effects of a new virus that epidemiologists and other health care professionals are continuing to study.  They appear to have nearly as many unanswered questions as we do.  Actions that are recommended for citizens, school districts, and businesses are all intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Closing schools is just one action that will assist in tracking the virus if it becomes present in a community.

Messages for Children and Teens:  There is a high assumption that they are safe and precautions have been taken to reduce the risk that they may become infected.  Encourage them to wash hands for 20 seconds with soap, cough and sneeze into their elbow or a tissue, don’t touch their face, and limit their exposure to others, especially those who may be sick.

District Website:  Our District website will be used to provide links to MDH and CDC.  We will also publish District correspondence on our website.  The website will also provide an email address for questions.  We expect to prepare and publish responses to FAQs.

Updates:  The WCA District will use the School Messenger System and the District Website to provide updates related to services we provide and actions we are taking.

Please remember, we are making decisions based on the most recent information that has been made available to us.  As new directives and guidance are provided, we will take appropriate action and convey changes to families through school messaging and our website. 

District staff and I are facing circumstances that are completely new to us.  We have questions that we do not have answers for yet and I am certain we have unknown obstacles ahead of us.  The Board of education, staff and I will appreciate your support and understanding.  I have only been in the District for seven months but I know our staff will work diligently to make the best of our situation.