Pupils are welcomed to a more normal first day of school – Wadena Pioneer Journal

It’s hard to tell what a normal first day of school looks like, as the day is filled with new things.

There is always a bit of chaos, a bit of the unknown, but always excitement from the youngest students to the most tenured member of staff.

“It seems pretty normal,” Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary Principal Louis Rutten said of the first day.

Aside from masks on school buses, due to a federal mandate, children sat together at school with some space between them without the masks they were required to wear last year. Mitigation efforts are still in place, such as reminding everyone to wash their hands and give themselves space during classroom instruction, according to Rutten.

Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary Principal Louis Rutten welcomes children entering the school for the 2021-2022 school year. Michael Johnson/Journal of Pioneers

Perhaps most different were the eight new elementary school teachers and nine new paraprofessionals. Much of the change was due to extensive staff movement rather than retirements, Rutten said.

The staff has their hands full with large elementary classes, including 85 kindergarteners, 89 first graders, 88 second graders, 79 third graders, and the largest group, 93 fourth graders. Kindergarten has its first day on September 20.

Instead of listening to Rutten make morning announcements through the intercom system, he used Zoom to talk to each class through screens in their bedrooms. The students got to know his soothing voice and smiling face as if he were there. It’s a change that captivated the students in Ms. Gallant’s kindergarten class. It was a change of administrative assistant that Lisa Schmidt understood very well.


The WDC Kindergarten students started the day with a classroom breakfast and then a message from Principal Louis Rutten via Zoom. Michael Johnson/Journal of Pioneers

“Covid has definitely brought some good changes,” Schmidt said. The feeling of coming back together with a little less fear or distraction was welcome.

“I’m so glad we’re back,” Schmidt said.


Wadena-Deer Creek para Julie Taggart leads the way for those stepping off the bus on Tuesday, September 7, 2021, the first day of school. Michael Johnson/Journal of Pioneers

Coming off the bus, the paraprofessionals said it was nice to focus less on the pandemic and more on the student’s learning. The smiles from the students as they took off the masks or face shields were a bonus.

“It’s pretty typical,” said paraprofessional Julie Taggart. “It’s crazy, but it’s crazy to get everyone to where they need to be.” The students ate breakfast in their rooms, but the plan was to have lunch in the cafeteria.

Almost everyone was ready for whatever newness the day was to bring. Those who need convincing will have the next nine months – hopefully normally – to get comfortable.

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