New school year brings a few challenges for Cloquet Schools

School administrators and staff will take the school year one day at a time as they educate students during the pandemic, officials said.

Michael Mattson, Dean of Students at Washington Elementary School, directs students as they get off of the bus on the first day of school. Abel Layon and Emarie Nelson walk towards another school staff member who ushers them into the school building. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal

Despite a few small issues, the first week of school was a success, Cloquet Superintendent Michael Cary told the school board at its Monday, Sept. 14 meeting.

The bus route changes left some elementary students confused when they switched buses at the middle school. Several buses ran behind schedule as staff helped students find the correct buses in the first few days, he said.

“Overall the staff and students have been very understanding and flexible as we get our systems up and running,” said Tom Brenner, Cloquet Middle School principal. The other principals offered similar sentiments.

Technology Department Director Trevor Smith said his department has been very busy. Almost half of the 500 help desk tickets came in the first few days the teachers were back in school.

Board member Dave Battaglia said he is concerned there will not be enough staff if distance learning students decide to transition to the in-class model.


Cary said he hopes families stay in their current chosen learning model.

“We’ve done our best,” Cary said. “If families try to go back to in-class learning, it’s going to be really challenging.”

Cary will continue to monitor the COVID-19 case rates for Carlton County released every Thursday, he said.

Board member Nate Sandman asked how long the school would stay in a hypothetical hybrid learning model if they switch from the current in-school model. Officials would wait until the numbers dip below 10 cases per 10,000 residents for two consecutive weeks before switching back to in-school learning, Cary said.

He is concerned about a potential shortage of staff during the flu and cold season, he said because COVID-19 symptoms are similar to colds and the flu. While staff may feel well enough to work, they will need to stay home until they are test negative for COVID-19, he said.

Five Cloquet staff members were out during the first week of school. All tested negative for COVID-19 and are back at work, Cary said.

“It’s a take-it-one-day-at-a-time kind of a year,” Cary said.

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