Fergus Falls Public Schools kicked off the 2020-21 school year Tuesday with kindergarten through sixth-grade students returning to classrooms, while grades 7-12 are taking a hybrid approach in the fall. There have been several changes to how school districts will be operating in the fifth month of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Fergus Falls Superintendent Jeff Drake is happy to see students back in the classroom.

“It has been wonderful having the students back in the building once again,” Drake said. “From all accounts I have heard the students are happy to be back as well.  Things have gone smoothly.  Students and staff are wearing masks.  Students in the cafeteria were occupying every other seat.  The busing went smoothly.  All things considered, we are off to a great start.”

The most notable difference to the 2020-21 school year, according to Drake, is that everyone is wearing masks. Drake commended the staff in the district for their planning as teachers have accommodated distance learners, as well as teaching a modified classroom. “Almost every facet of the way we do things has been impacted in some fashion by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Drake mentioned that this year is different, some things are much the same.

“Even amid a pandemic the new school year represents a fresh start.  On the organizational side of things - schools are highly structured systems.  Buses run on schedules, students attend classes on schedules and we all eat lunch on schedules.  We specialize in creating routines.  Most of us appreciate the structure and routine that school and work brings to our lives,” Drake said.

After going through the first day of school, Drake believes it was a smooth start to the year as planning and great staff made the beginning of school easier.

“I am extremely appreciative of all the time and energy that the staff has put in to ensure a smooth start to the school year.  Special thanks to Otter Tail County Public Health and Ottertail Coaches.  I am also very grateful for the partnership we have with our families and the cooperation from our students in abiding by the mask mandate.  We are off to an excellent start and looking forward to a great year,” Drake added.

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