Continuing to work for their school

Olivia Straw, Addison Dvergsten (looking up), and Adalynn Sorenson work on an art project as part of the GMR child care program. (submitted photo)

Making lipstick, visiting nursing home residents through their windows, getting their faces painted, playing card games, completing school work, picking up garbage around town on Earth Day, working on art projects, designing cards, playing outside, baking cookies…

These are just some of the activities students part of the Badger and Greenbush-Middle River child care program have been keeping busy with since schools across the state transitioned to distance learning.

These days, classrooms may be devoid of teachers standing at the front of their classrooms guiding their students through lessons. But inside and around these school buildings, not just teachers, but also support staff members are keeping busy as they continue to serve their district and its students during this distance learning period. Local school administrators and some paraprofessionals from both the Badger and Greenbush-Middle River schools discussed some of the work still being done by various support staff members during this time.

As for the child care, this service officially began on March 18, just a day after schools across the state closed their doors to regular instruction for what has proven to be the final time this school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools are providing this service for pre-kindergarten through 12-year-old students whose guardians are critical or essential workers, such as emergency personnel, health care workers, and teachers. The program ends on May 22, the final scheduled day of school for both districts.

Currently, at the Badger School, Carol Ricke and Tami Davy have been leading the child care program. At the GMR School, Leslie Sondreal, Doreen Waage, and Hayley Olson have been leading the program. The Badger program has 5 students in it and the GMR program ranges from 8 to 14.

When Sondreal first heard that she would continue to work during this distance learning period, she was fine with it and happy to still have a job. She did wonder at first about certain safety aspects.

“I was wondering how we were going to do it safely since kids (are) coming in and out and then (us) not knowing what is going on at home, if they’re quarantining,” Sondreal said. “So we were all really, really fearful of… what the kids are bringing into us while our kids are self-quarantining at home. So that was our only concern really.”

Sondreal did explain how certain health-related safety precautions have been put in place related to the child care program. Parents can’t go in and out of the building and have to drop off their children outside the school doors. The child care paraprofessionals have the students tell them if they have to use the bathroom, wanting to make sure they know where these students are going and that they’re social distancing since there are others in the building at the same time. Supervising the students in the gym and ensuring that they’re washing their hands frequently are just a couple other guidelines Sondreal mentioned.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz proclaimed May 7, 2020 as “School-Age Care Workers Day” to recognize the paraprofessionals, teachers, and school-age specialists providing this care during this pandemic. School administrators in both buildings complimented the work of these child care school workers.

Badger Dean of Students Stacey Warne explained how his school’s two child care workers have brought some enjoyable learning activities to the students in the program.

“Not only do the students get help working with their school assignments, they get plenty of reading, exercise, and play time too,” Warne said via email. “One thing that all of us still in the building have enjoyed is the child care’s food lab day. These youngsters have made some delicious cookies, brownies, and other treats.”

GMR Superintendent Larry Guggisberg called the efforts of these child care workers as “outstanding,” also pointing to the various activities the children in this program are getting to do, from schoolwork to crafts and outside activities.

“We especially applaud their efforts which are community service type activities,” Guggisberg said via email. “From litter clean-up to visits to LifeCare Manor, which generate fun and excitement for their residents, (these activities) all provide great life experiences for our child care students.”

Paraprofessionals are keeping busy with other tasks as well, from painting and deep cleaning to helping with school meal delivery and schoolwork delivery and pick-up.

Besides paraprofessionals, other support staff are keeping busy at each building too. To find out about these individuals, read the complete story in the May 13 issue of The Tribune.

Regardless of role, Warne has witnessed teamwork from his support staff members during this pandemic.

“It has been impressive, but not surprising, to see everyone working together to make sure our students are getting what they need during this unprecedented time,” Warne said via email. “They have been so flexible and willing to go above and beyond for our students and staff. Job well done!”

GMR Principal Sharon Schultz admired not just her employees’ flexibility, but also their initiative during this time.

“With little advance notice, they looked for opportunities to serve the district and keep busy,” Schultz said via email.

These school support staff employees are taking on some new jobs, but also continuing some of their same ones, all in an effort to serve their school districts during this pandemic.

“The importance of the work the GMR support staff does each day,” Guggisberg said via email, “perhaps isn’t at the forefront until times like these.”

To see the complete story, read the May 13 issue of The Tribune in print or online at page1publications.com.

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