What should have been the last few weeks of school for the 2019-2020 school year is instead a collection of missed milestones associated with the end of the school year. There will not be a formal prom dance held, and the graduation ceremonies are going to be highly restricted. The local schools - Langdon Area School District (LASD), St. Alphonsus Catholic School (St. A’s), and Munich Public School - all shared how their schools are reconciling the change in end of school year activities.
LASD Superintendent Daren Christianson, along with St. A’s Principal Carrie Hope and Munich Superintendant/Principal Robert Bubach, explained that the last month of school is typically the time for teachers and students to recap and finalize. Teachers conduct tests to determine if important curriculum standards were met as well as the administration of standardized tests. There is also a lot of hands-on learning, field trips, and fun memories of wrapping up the school year. The last month of school is extremely busy with so much going on to make sure they have accomplished what they wanted to for the year in each class or as Bubach put it - it’s a time to put a ‘final stamp’ on learning.
“The end of the school year brings so many great memories for students. The students are missing out on some experiences that I know we will try to fill next school year but still an important time in children’s lives,” says Hope. “This year is different with utilizing the online learning model. Our teachers, staff, students and community have been awesome, working so well together,” Christianson said.
The Langdon Area School District has made a concentrated effort to continue to stay in contact with all of their students and, when needed, parents. Christianson has been utilizing social media to share information as he gets it. The district also uses email for providing information and continues to use Microsoft Teams to provide information when appropriate and, of course, give the students a chance to interact with their classmates and teacher. For some teachers, this method of instruction leaves a lot to be desired.
“The teachers miss their students. A big reason why teachers are teachers is that they enjoy spending time with young people, and we all understand that online interaction is not the same as seeing each other face to face,” Christianson said.
At St. A’s, teachers have continued using Zoom to create virtual class times with their students. To limit interaction, a system of pick-ups and drop-offs have been created. Hope explained that a pick-up and drop-off on Monday, May 4 has provided students with their curriculum work to finish out the school year. Teachers have set up special one-on-one zoom meetings for those students that prefer that to complete work. The final drop off day to return the schoolwork is scheduled for Friday, May 15. Hope shared that St. A’s will be doing a whole school zoom on Wednesday, May 20 to wrap up the school year and celebrate their students.
“We are working hard to keep communication open with all our families. We are here and available for all our students and families as we wrap up this school year,” Hope said.
Just like at the schools located in Langdon, efforts to finish out the school year can are in place in Munich as well. The finals weeks in Munich are a time of wrapping up, also and Bubach believes that by now, the “routine” has been set to help make the end of school year as easy as possible.
One aspect of the end of school year that has changed even more significantly is the memory-making events of prom and graduation. While Munich does not hold a prom, the other schools do have a final ‘hurrah’ for their students. In Langdon, LASD had representatives of the Junior class, class advisors, prom advisor and administration meet this last week to discuss what possible solutions there are for prom.
“We determined that we would postpone prom indefinitely until such a time that the activity can be done safely. We discussed possible summer or even a formal in the fall,” Christianson says. “We want to do what we can so our students have this experience.”
For the younger students of LASD, there are no planned physical get-togethers for any of the classes at this time. Christianson said the teachers have many times planned fun online activities for the groups of students that they work with. At St. A’s, celebrating the end of the school year has already begun with a ABC countdown to summer fun. Hope shared that faculty will also be doing fun activities with the classes and then a whole school bingo on the 20th of May.
“We also have students that graduate from our school and will move into high school. It is important to have that time to celebrate all the success of these students at the end of the year,” Hope said. “St. Alphonsus School will be having 8th grade, Kindergarten, and pre-K graduation at a later time when we can safely gather together with our families and friends to celebrate the great successes of our students.”
The graduating seniors of 2020 will be a class that is never forgotten as their final moments of being high school students has had to be done while maintaining social distancing. Both LASD and Munich will be holding graduation ceremonies for their seniors and families. However, this is going to be a strict affair with safety guidelines from the North Dakota Department of Instruction being followed and enforced. LASD will be holding their ceremony at the Dakota Spirit Arena with a live-stream of the event online and being broadcasted over KNDK1080.
“Following graduation, the [Munich] graduates will ride on a flatbed through town on a graduation parade,” Bubach said.
The final months of the 2019-2020 school year have been a learning experience for all educators across the nation. At St. A’s, staff are very sad to end the school year this way and are missing their students. Hope believes that going through this whole experience has made the teachers and staff of St. A’s more prepared and technology-ready for anything that comes their way. As a whole, the experience has made them stronger as a team. Similar sentiments are shared by most of the teachers in Munich, who have been stressed through this process according to Bubach. On the other hand, he believes that they have all adjusted pretty well to what he hopes will be a temporary ‘new normal’.
“I believe we will come out of this experience much stronger in our use of technology in our regular classroom. I feel that by being forced into an online format, the learning curve has been accelerated in a way that never would have happened before,” Christianson said. “I believe that the days of teachers making extensive copies of information for students may be over with them now being able to post that same information on teams so students can access it from anywhere they have a device. I truly believe that education as we know it will be different moving forward due to this experience.”