On behalf of the Board of Education, it is with heartfelt appreciation that we say thank you! During the past week our Brainerd Public Schools team, community, state and nation have been navigating an ever-changing and evolving health concern regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dealing with this issue is unprecedented for all, causing understandable concerns and anxiety throughout our population. Our generous community has once again come together to provide support and partnership during these challenging times. As a district, we have had the opportunity to witness community partners collaborating to achieve common goals for all children and families.

Brainerd Public Schools continue to prepare in an effort to ensure that every student receives an equitable education and has equal access to learning and instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic. As per the Minnesota Department of Education School Closure Guide, we are preparing instructional plans that will allow meaningful and relevant learning to take place while our schools are closed. Steps we are taking include but are not limited to the following:

  • Equitable instruction through distance learning. Instructional leaders are currently developing lessons utilizing a distance learning model for every student. Students will have access to appropriate educational materials and will receive daily interaction with their licensed teacher(s). Please watch the district website (isd181.org/covid19) as these plans are developed and ready for implementation, which will begin on Monday, March 30. Distance learning will continue thereafter, until we hear differently from the Minnesota Department of Education.

  • Special Education Services. Teachers providing special education services to students are working diligently to develop, provide and deliver high quality services during the distance learning period. Students with disabilities will continue to receive specialized instruction and related services through a distance learning model to meet their individual needs.

  • Healthy meals are available for all children ages 18 and under. Nutritious and delicious breakfast/lunches are provided curbside for all children ages 18 and under, Monday-Friday from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m., at the following locations:

    -- Washington Educational Services Building, 804 Oak St., Brainerd, south east entrances;

    -- Riverside Elementary, 220 NW Third St., Brainerd, main entrance;

    -- Forestview Middle School,12149 Knollwood Drive, Baxter, north entrance; and

    -- Garfield Elementary, 1120 NE 10th Ave., Brainerd, main entrance.

    -- Additional meals are being delivered to our specialized populations, including families with children who are medically fragile.

  • High-quality child care available for families of emergency and essential workers. Child care is available Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m., for the children of parents working in critical care professions (direct care providers, health care, emergency response, Brainerd Public Schools), ages 4 years old to eighth grade. This service is provided free of charge and includes breakfast and lunch for every child. If you meet this criteria and need this service, please sign up and submit the COVID-19 Community Needs survey (found below or on district website): https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfvQQ7p5-Qua0q-RLYywXVQU7Hl_7e9Ar8ntEvzYvuTmYZ90g/viewform

  • Technology and internet access. Forestview Middle School computers were delivered to students and families this past Thursday and Friday. Additional decisions for meeting individual technology and internet needs, in an effort to deliver some distance learning opportunities, will be made in the very near future. Please visit the front page of the Brainerd Public Schools’ district website at isd181.org for the internet survey, frequent updates and answers to your questions.

  • Personal protections and safety protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). The CDC and MDH have been diligent in asking Minnesotans to implement safety protocols into their daily lives. Recommendations ask citizens to not congregate in groups larger than 10, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, stay home when you are sick, cover your cough and/or sneezes, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, and clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. Students are also asked to stay home and away from large groups during this time.

Last Thursday and Friday, district facilities were open to students and families to pick up any personal belongings, medical prescriptions, technology, musical instruments and more, which students may wish to have at home during this time. If you were unable to meet during those dates and still wish to pick up materials, Brainerd High School students may stop in at the main entrance for access to their personal items. Forestview Middle School students should call ahead of time to make arrangements for item pickup. Elementary schools will determine a date and time next week -- please note the district website for updated information.

Several of you have contacted us to see how you can help or assist. As time goes on, we may need to enlist some of your kindness and volunteerism. We will let you know if so.

Thank you to all Brainerd Public Schools staff, students and community for collaborating in an effort to care for one another during this difficult time. Together, we will make good during a not-so-good situation! Together, we will take care of one another! Together, we will rally! Together, we are Warrior Strong!! Thank you!

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Laine Larson is Superintendent at Brainerd Public Schools. Thomas Haglin is chairman of Brainerd Public Schools Board of Education.