By Sarah CR Clark

Falcon Heights Elementary

Falcon Heights Elementary School is gradually welcoming students back into its building after months of distance learning due to COVID-19.

Kindergartners and first graders were the first students back in classrooms on Oct. 12. These youngest students, whose families have chosen Roseville Area School District’s blended learning option, will attend school four days a week, with Wednesdays being an asynchronous learning day at home (and a deep-cleaning day at the school).

Eric Kruger, lead teacher and behavioral specialist at Falcon Heights Elementary, said of the first day of blended learning, “As students came back into the building, it reminded me of what teaching is all about. Capturing the excitement of the students after being distant, the kindergartners especially, is really energizing. It feels very good to be at school.”

Kruger said the school’s next steps for reopening will be “a real measured approach.” Teachers and administrators plan to refine physical distancing and cleanliness practices based on the experiences of kindergarten and first grade students in the building.

Second grade and third grade students were expected to start returning to their school on Oct. 26. Fourth through sixth grade students are scheduled to return on Nov. 9. Students in second through sixth grade will physically attend school two days a week with the other three days spent at home.

About 30 percent of all of Falcon Heights Elementary students are enrolled in the district’s all-virtual option for the school year, Kruger said.

Parent-teacher conferences will be held virtually. An outdoor book fair is being planned for a future materials pick-up day.

Murray Middle School

Murray Middle School was recently named the recipient of three grants. The first is a $50,000 grant from the Bush Foundation that will allow the school to partner with Innocent Technologies, a Minneapolis-based organization working to dismantle racism in schools.

“This work addresses our priorities of equity, community and relationships as we strive to serve all of our students at the highest level,” said Principal Jamin McKenzie. “This is a huge celebration.”

The second grant of $40,000 from Riding for Focus, will supply Murray with resources to provide mountain biking experiences to students in physical education.

The third grant, $4,866 awarded from St. Paul-based Ecolab, will supply English Language learners with digital resources to enhance their academic and enrichment experiences. McKenzie credited teachers DeWayne Combs and Kayla Roste for their lead role in securing this grant.

“Our staff is working tirelessly to meet the challenges of distance learning,” he said. “Their dedication to our students, families and community is stronger than ever.”

Otis and Louis Herman on SAP Elementary Walk to School week. Also pictured is the boys’ mother, Grace Bell, and family dog Dottie. Photos courtesy Karen Paulson.

St. Anthony Park Elementary School

The week of Oct. 5 was Family Walk Challenge for St. Anthony Park Elementary School students, families and staff.

Students and their families were invited to walk or bike together and to submit photos of themselves being active. The Wellness Committee, a small group of SAP Elementary teachers promoting health and wellness among staff and students, encouraged families to walk together in honor of the traditional “Walk or Bike to School Day.”

Karen Paulsen, physical education teacher and Wellness Committee member, estimated 183 students participated in the Family Walk Challenge.

“My hope is that our SAP fami­lies got to experience some stress-free bonding time on their family walk,” she said. “We had beautiful and warm fall weather for our walk to school week. I was thrilled to see so many happy pictures rolling into my email.”

In past years, school buses have dropped students off at the Langford Park Recreation Center and the students walked the remaining distance to the elementary school. However, distance learning due COVID-19 precautions precluded that from happening this time.

“While there are so many things we cannot do during this pandemic, we can absolutely go for a walk together,” noted Kim Jeffers, a first grade teacher and Wellness Committee member.

Sarah CR Clark is a resident of St. Anthony Park and a regular freelance writer for the Bugle.

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