PWLC tries to maintain normalcy [UPDATED]Published 1:19pm Thursday, October 3, 2013 Updated 8:14pm Wednesday, October 9, 2013
On the first day of the federal government shutdown, Chip McAllister, a teacher at the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center, could sense the difference.
“It seems like a ghost town out here,” McAllister said. “Just their presence, walking around with their uniforms on, gives a different feel to the place.”
The U.S. Fish and WIldlife Service was one of many federal departments forced to shut down after Congress failed to come to terms on essential federal funding. The main facility has been locked and approximately 29 federal employees at Prairie Wetlands were furloughed.
But the Learning Center, owned and operated by the Fergus Falls Public School District, will remain open and classes will go on as scheduled, according to elementary school principal Scott Colbeck. But there will be some effects in the schools.
“Anybody who had a field trip planned to the Learning Center, that has been cancelled or postponed,” Colbeck said.
Other schools from outside the district have also routinely sent students to the Learning Center for day trips, but those will have to be put on hold as well.
Some of those furloughed employees would come into the classrooms once a week to work with the students and provide an experienced voice for whatever topic was being covered in class.
This part of the day at the Learning Center will be cancelled indefinitely, which fifth grade teacher Tia Thysell said was an unfortunate loss for both herself and the students.
“We’ll just kind of move on with what we have to do and what we are teaching, but we just won’t have that extra information coming in anymore,” Thysell said.
Lessons will go on as planned despite the loss of these guest instructors. Teachers will still take students outside, according to McAllister.
One reason the shutdown may not be a large interruption is because this early in the school year, some of the younger students are not set in a routine. This is the first year at the Learning Center for McAllister’s fourth graders.
So even without the employees who have contributed a lot to the Learning Center experience, the teachers are confident things will be able to carry on smoothly. But that does not mean their absence will not be felt.
“Those Tuesdays are special days for the kids when they know someone new is coming in,” McAllister said. “To me, having them in the classroom once a week just aides what we do.”