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Schools: Virtual classrooms, real meals


March 27, 2020

Jana Peterson

Cloquet school district paraprofessional Mary Vang and bus driver Daryl Niemi were making deliveries of food for students last week after schools across Minnesota were ordered shut as of March 18. Distance learning begins next week at schools across Carlton County Monday and will last until at least the first part of May. Food pickups and deliveries will also continue, as will daycare for children of essential workers.

The order Wednesday by Minnesota governor Tim Walz that schools remain closed and transition to distance learning through May 4 didn't surprise many educators, since they were told to be ready for this moment on March 15.

Not to worry, the Cloquet school district - like every other district in the county and the state - has a plan.

"For elementary it's all paper and pencil via delivery or pickup," Cloquet superintendent Micheal Cary said. "For secondary, we'll go digital for as many students as we can."

According to Cary, the plan builds off what the district implemented for free lunches for students last Wednesday-Friday as mandated by the governor.

Effective Tuesday, March 31 - the day Cloquet kids are due back at school after spring break - meals and schoolwork will be delivered to elementary school students by bus if they live along a bus route, whether or not they normally take the bus. All lunches are free and kids don't have to RSVP, Cary said.

Middle school and high school students will receive and turn in schoolwork online, using devices that they already have from the school district. They can also get free bagged lunches and breakfast from the school bus. (For specific drop-off times, find your student's route at

Schoolwork and food will be available for pickup from the child's school for walkers.

There won't be homework every day for elementary school students, Cary said. Kids will pick up schoolwork on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, and submit the previous week's homework at the same time. That way they will minimize face-to-face interactions and keep things simple for everyone.

"For those who can't make that work, we'll have additional pickup times at the school, plus extended hours at the schools on Wednesday and Thursday evening so families can swing in," Cary said.

One of the biggest issues the district needs to solve is what to do for middle school and high school students who don't have access to the internet at home, Cary said.

They should all have tablet or laptop computers from the school district, but they will also need to be able to download homework at least.

Cary said Monday they are still working on solutions for that, but have considered purchasing "hotspots" - mobile devices that create a wireless internet connection - and also providing spaces outside of the schools where people could pull in and download homework using the school's WiFi network.

Cary said they counted 164 households that either don't have internet access or didn't respond to a previous survey by the school district.

He's asking parents to call their child's school office if they don't have internet access or an email account, or if they have any other questions about distance learning. The school will work with families to find other solutions for communication.

In the meantime, the robocall issued Wednesday told families to stay tuned, check the district website and wait for emails and phone calls to come with more details about the next several weeks of distance learning at the school.

"I think we'll learn quickly how many families have inaccurate email addresses," he said. "If that's the case, folks should call the school or go to their parent portal account."

Find out more at the school website, There is a section for COVID-19 messages and updates on the homepage.


Board meetings go online

The Cloquet School board will conduct all its regularly scheduled meetings online beginning Monday, March 30 until further notice.

To protect the health and safety of the community and school board, community members will not be allowed to attend board meetings in person, but can view the live stream of the meetings at

Thgose who have comments they would like shared during the open forum portion of the meeting should email their name and comments by noon the day of the meeting to [email protected], or call 879-6721, ext. 6204.

Other schools in Carlton County are also seeking alternative meetings. Carlton and Wrenshall have used Facebook Live in the past.


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