Students are welcomed for a more normal first day of school

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

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

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

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

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

The staff have their hands full with large elementary classes, including 85 preschools, 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 making the morning announcements through the intercom system, he used Zoom to talk to each class through screens in their rooms. The students got to know his soothing voice and his smiley face as if he were there. It was a change that captivated the students in Ms. Gallant’s kindergarten class. It was a change that Lisa Schmidt said went very well.

The WDC Kindergarten children started the day with a classroom breakfast, followed by a message from Principal Louis Rutten via Zoom.  Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

The WDC Kindergarten children started the day with a classroom breakfast, followed by a message from Principal Louis Rutten via Zoom. Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

“Covid has definitely made some good changes,” Schmidt said. The feeling of ending up with a little less fear or distraction was welcome.

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

Wadena-Deer Creek by Julie Taggart leads the way for those exiting the bus on Tuesday, September 7, 2021, the first day of school.  Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

Wadena-Deer Creek by Julie Taggart leads the way for those exiting the bus on Tuesday, September 7, 2021, the first day of school. Michael Johnson / Pioneer Journal

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

“It’s pretty typical,” said paraprofessional Julie Taggart. “It’s crazy, but hey crazy to get everyone 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 had to bring. Those who need to be convinced will have the next, hopefully normal, nine months to get comfortable.


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