January 8, 2021 - Issue #64
Looking and moving forward in 2021
We launch into 2021 with high hopes and a greater degree of optimism than we have had in a long time. Undoubtedly, it has been a challenging year for schools and families. It is also, without question, far from over. 

Yet, for my part, I look toward the 2nd semester of this school year feeling like the worst is behind us. As far as Covid goes, our county and our community made it through a very, very challenging late fall, where it seemed like cases were everywhere. It feels like we will not have to endure that again, and there is some hope as vaccinations are now actually in sight. Every week since last March, our decisions have been reactive; we were unable to be proactive as we didn’t know what mandates were coming next or even what was causing what. Just knowing what to do regarding social distancing and masks is far more than we knew months ago. Our medical community and senior caregivers all over our communities have been outstanding and can now slowly begin to operate with a better sense of control, calm, and success. 
 
Schools throughout the entire state (and country) did not know how to implement a model to provide equitable educational services to students—taking into account access to teachers, technology, supervision, and support. We learned quickly that many students were unable to thrive. Our state decision-makers learned these models of learning were nearly an impossible ask of teachers, parents, caregivers, and students. Yet many, many educators, staff and families went above and beyond trying to achieve success for students, which is all we can ask.
 
In a year where nothing is certain, I am willing to go out on a limb by saying that once we get through the steps to get to in-person learning, we will do what we can to keep that model in place and navigate through it however we have to. We, as educators, also know more now having fought through it. It is with this sense of optimism we can look to 2021. We ask your help to instill a sense of confidence to all students. For many students, we just need to get them moving forward once again, aligning themselves with the hopes and dreams they had in their best moments of school, whenever that was. Our students can make up for this lost time, and we will do whatever we can to help.
 
So, what is next?
  • After the Governor’s announcement stating schools can start bringing back students three grades at a time starting January 18th, we quickly gathered and presented our case to the MN Dept. of Education, stating that we were already transitioning back to Hybrid prior to the Governor’s notice. Luckily, we won that appeal. Therefore, we are officially allowed to bring our 5-12 students back into the hybrid model starting January 11th.

  • Our next steps will be to seek approval to go to full-time, in-person learning for some of those grades. Ideally, we want all of them back as soon as possible, but as of this writing, the “three grades only” per site rule is still in place. But even with that rule, we will work to find a way to expedite this process any way possible. Which grades will come back first for full in-person learning is still TBD.We hope to have most grades in-person when our 2nd semester starts on January 26 and all students back in person shortly thereafter. Again, that is a goal not yet approved by MDE, but even with all the stipulations, we believe it is possible. —George Weber
Broschofsky retires from school board
"I am very appreciative to have had the opportunity to serve three terms on the Pierz School Board. The years have gone by quite quickly and has enabled me to learn volumes about the day to day operations, especially the impact of government policies and funding on schools. I encourage others to consider board involvement as another way to be a life-long learner so as to enlighten themselves about the vast regulations and compliance that is part of any public school system. 
 
During these past 12 years, Pierz schools have experienced continued growth in financial stability as well as improvements/additions to its facilities. I am very proud of our administration and staff working together as this is what produced these results. There have been many challenges throughout the years as well but none compare to the struggles of so many right now relating to the current pandemic environment. As the difficulties are continuous in providing the valuable education that all students need, I applaud everyone at Pierz Schools for recognizing that students learn best in-person and that all are doing their part to make that happen as much as possible in this Covid world. I believe this is proving to others everywhere that here in this state, we are not just Minnesota NICE but also Minnesota SMART. Thanks to those that have had to answer the many questions I have asked throughout the years. It has been an honor to be part of District 484." —Joanne Broschofsky

We thank you, Joanne, for your years of service, your listening ear, the wisdom and patience you brought to our board, and your dedication to the betterment of our entire community.
COVID-19: Nurse Update
With the new mandates from MDH, Public schools are required to offer voluntary staff testing. Pierz Schools offered the first round of testing this week, and we will again offer testing in two weeks for all staff. The goal of this optional testing is to decrease the spread of Covid in our schools and community, especially amongst asymptomatic carriers.

Additionally: As we start to bring students back into the building, it is very important that families continue to keep the district nurse updated with any Covid-related illness or quarantines occurring in the home--even if your child is distance learning. Please use this form to provide information to the nurse.
Happenings at Healy
Triple A and ExCEL representatives named
Congratulations to juniors Kiara Olesch and Lance Otremba on being nominated for the ExCEL award--an award recognizing Minnesota high school juniors who are excellent leaders and citizens active in school activities.
And congratulations to seniors Landon Schomer and Ellie Fischer for being nominated for the Triple A award, representing Minnesota seniors who excel in Academics (3.0 GPA or higher), Arts, and Athletics.
Art room gets a facelift after turning 53
The Healy High School art room underwent a transformation this past month--complete with new flooring, tables, storage, and sinks. Prior, the 1968 art room was in its original form and function. The remodel will allow students to have their own storage areas, more spaces for seating, and options for flexible work spaces. Art teacher Mrs. Sara Underhill, pictured.
Mental Health Check-in
Protecting your family's mental health during COVID
A conversation with UNICEF and adolescent psychology expert Dr. Lisa Damour discusses ways to manage mental health during the pandemic-- and always.

"Dr. Damour: Kids need structure. Full stop. And what we’re all having to do, very quickly, is invent entirely new structures to get every one of us through our days. And so I would strongly recommend that parents make sure that there’s a schedule for the day, that there’s a plan for how time will be spent — and that can include playtime where kids can get on their phones and connect with their friends, which of course they’re going to want to do. But it also should have technology-free time, time set aside to help with making dinner, time to go outside. If you can be outside you should. We need to think about what we value and we need to build a structure that reflects that, and it will be a great relief to our kids to have a sense of a predictable day and a sense of when they’re supposed to be working and when they get to play.

I would say for kids under the age of 10 or 11, the parent should come up with a structure and then negotiate from there with their child and see if there’s any feedback that makes good sense.

For children 10 and 11 or older, I would ask the child to design it — and give them a sense of the kinds of things that should be part of that structure, and then work with what they create."

For more information, visit the UNICEF article here. As always, please contact any of our school counselors or social workers if you or someone you know is in need of physical, mental, emotional or financial help or assistance:
Brittany Bueckers - High School Counselor x1213
Scott Herold - Middle/Elementary Counselor x1212
Marilyn Keith - High School Social Worker x1214
Michelle Ferguson - Elementary Social Worker x2216
Happenings at Pioneer Elementary
Volunteer shares her reading passion to help students
Carolyn Brigner volunteers her time working on the Barton Tutoring and Spelling program helping students who need support with reading and phonics. The program was designed for students with dyslexia but is beneficial for all students who struggle with various skills related to reading. The beauty of this program is that it can be done virtually! If you have a passion for reading or helping students thrive and would like to learn more about Barton, contact Denise Girtz. Maybe the idea of working through videos sounds scary but you would like to work in person with students; now is the perfect time to do some training and prepare for when in-person tutoring is an option. Most volunteers need about 10 hours of training to feel confident and then spend 1-3 hours a week working with 1-2 students. 
Santa checked in on all the good little boys and girls at Pioneer
Just before Christmas break, Santa made his annual appearance on the rooftop of Pioneer Elementary. He also peered in from the skylight over the lunchroom as all the children screamed for joy and excitement. 'Til next year, Santa!
Snippets from Pioneer
[Breanna Fisher was the lucky hunter in this year's Buck Contest, winning a free deer mount from Mr. Otte. Congrats, Breanna!]
[4th graders enjoyed using balloons, silk, wool, paper towels, plastic wrap, and hair to investigate static electricity: learning that like charges repel and opposites attract.]
Student Activities Updates
Winter Sport Updates
New Guidelines for Spectators at events is based directly on guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education. Each participant is allowed 2 spectators. Note: because of the venues not meeting the guidelines there will be no fans at all away Junior High events. Also, no fans at home Junior High wrestling events. 

• Spectators must be separated from the competition by a minimum of 12 feet.
• Spectators must be separated by at least 6 feet between households/spectator groups
 • For indoor events where 12 feet can’t be maintained between participants and spectators, participants must be included in the total capacity count.
• If spectators and participants can be clearly separated by at least 12 feet, then participants do not need to be included in the total capacity count.
• Spectators are only allowed at official events.
(*Participates will be emailed the link (like we did in the fall) to get tickets online through our online system.)

Indoor Events:
• All spectators at all indoor events must wear a mask/face covering.
 
Note: All home Varsity games/matches/meets will be broadcasted on our school Youtube channel, -- a few of our non-varsity events will be streamed as well.
 
Transportation To/From Activities
The district will continue to provide transportation to and from events as always.
Because of possible Covid situations and the contact tracing, adult family members may drive students to and from contests. Parents must complete the online transportation waiver form on our Student Activities page.
Looking Ahead...
January 22 -No School—End of 1st Semester - Teacher Workshop/Grading
January 25 -No School
Current Community Ed Classes
Additional Defensive Driver (55 Alive) 4-hour refresher safety classes will be scheduled soon by local community member, retired teacher and driving instructor, Rick Sczublewski. Call 320-468-6458 ext 7 to add your name to the list for the next class. Walk-ins will not be accepted. Masks and social distancing are required. A mid-January date is tentatively being scheduled.
Pierz Public Schools #484
District Office: 320.468.6458
112 Kamnic Street, Pierz, MN 56364