Concerns surrounding Minnesota schooling have been near the forefront of the battleground in the war against COVID-19. Fergus Falls schools superintendent, Jeff Drake, along with three other superintendents from the region, spoke with Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Lakes Area Service Cooperative (LASC) Executive Director Jeremy Kovash in a call on Friday. 

“I am actually in Washington today because there is important work that needs to be done for schools,” shared Klobuchar. “I have become, I will say, obsessed with this piece of it because I think that the number one thing is getting expanded vaccines out there.” 

She continued to share that the most important thing that can be done immediately is getting schools back open. 

The purpose of the call was to collect feedback and listen to the concerns of various school districts in the region. Concerns discussed were primarily related to mental health, internet access, equity and flexibility in funding. These concerns were raised across the board, not only by the Fergus Falls school district, but also by Breckenridge, Hawley and Moorhead — the other school districts on the call. Additional concerns included summer school programming and access barriers to transportation.       

Kovash explained that LASC jumped into action last spring when students were first sent home due to the pandemic. The organization set up dozens of networking groups for school staff in order to help schools determine the best methods to help students achieve success in the 2020-21 school year. While progress was made between last year and the start of this one, there will continue to be challenges as the pandemic continues.

Drake, who has a background in counseling, expressed his thoughts and validated the concerns of other regional districts in regards to the mental health implications the pandemic has had on students. He explained that ISD 544 previously surveyed parents and “40% of parents are concerned with the emotional well-being of their child.” It is expected that this number is now higher. 

Klobuchar closed the call by thanking the participants for their input and assuring them that their concerns will be taken into consideration in order to improve the current state of the schools within the region. 

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