by Heidi L. Everett
District 742 students in grades six through 12 will return to in-person learning full time March 10.
When the announcement was made at the Feb. 3 Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Willie Jett noted the historic moment.
“Our secondary schools have not been in person like this since last March,” he said.
Ofelia Jorgenson of St. Joseph is a seventh-grader at Kennedy Community School. She remembers March 2020.
“The last in-person class I remember was the first time I had heard of COVID,” she said. “They thought we would be back in two weeks, but we were not.”
She’s most looking forward to seeing her friends face-to-face even though she’s gotten to know them better during learning from home.
“We group Facetime each other and hang out,” she said. “We spend more time together – not in person – but more time together.”
Jorgenson also alternated online learning Mondays and Tuesdays at her house and at a friend’s house for a change of scene this past year.
“We decided if we only saw each other, we could do that and be COVID safe,” she said.
When they had different classes, they would just put on headphones or go into a different room to separate, Jorgenson said.
Jorgenson said she misses the hands-on learning, especially in science class.
“When we are in the building, we’ll be able to actually use a microscope rather than just watching videos and taking notes,” she said.
Finally, she hopes to get back to a more normal schedule rather than three two-hour classes each day.
“Two hours is a long time to be learning one thing,” she said.
Jorgenson said she also believes she’ll be more motivated to complete schoolwork.
“There’s so many distractions at the house,” she admits.
When asked what she thinks her memories of this past year will be, she said. “Hanging out with my friends and masks.”
For Hannah Mattkins, a St. Joseph senior at Apollo, she really just wants a more normal senior year in the last three months of it.
“Honestly, it doesn’t even feel like I’m a senior right now because I just wake up at my home, walk 10 feet to the couch, and it’s all just kind of blended together,” she said. “I just hope we can have a softball season and prom and somewhat of a graduation and have that be somewhat kind of normal.”
Like Jorgenson, she remembers when everything changed because of the pandemic.
“We thought it was just going to be a couple weeks and then we’d be back in the school, having classes together and playing sports,” she said. “We just never went back.”
She and her friends have stayed connected through Facetime, SnapChat and texting, but she’s looking forward to more face-to-face time and being in the classroom, especially for American Sign Language.
“My ASL class is the best class I’ve ever had. Ms. Dotzler is an amazing teacher. She’s fun and understanding and just amazing,” Mattkins said.
Softball also tops her list. Last March, they had captain’s practice during spring break.
“We were back for one week, and then it was all over,” she said.
After graduation, Mattkins plans to complete her general education requirements at St. Cloud Technical and Community College before thinking about a four-year plan.
Right now, she’s just thinking about how difficult it might be to “get back in the groove.”
“I wake up at 8, hang with my puppy for a little bit and sit on the floor in the living room for school,” she said.
Jasper, a rescued puppy from the side of the road, and her other dog, Asher, 8, love each other and keep her entertained, she said.
The dogs will miss her. She will miss them too, but she was glad when she heard the news of the return to in-person learning.
“I literally jumped for joy. I was so loud,” she said.
But she does have a confession that many people who’ve had to work from home the past year can probably relate to.
“I’ve gotta be honest. I’m probably just going to be wearing sweatpants,” she said.