Jefferson Elementary School’s teachers, staff and students made a heartfelt plea to Red Wing School Board members Monday night to allow the school to remain open next fall.
Jefferson, which currently houses 150 students in K-6, reopened on Sept. 8, 2020 to accommodate COVID-19 social distancing and resulting smaller classes.
Now that the district is facing $2.2 million in budget cuts for the 2021-2022 school year, the board must decide whether or not to keep Jefferson open.
There are also concerns that Jefferson is not fully wheelchair accessible and unsafe for people with disabilities, which could affect the board’s decision.
Second grade teacher, Zack Will, and third grade teacher, Mandy Strokes expressed their love for Jefferson on behalf of all the other teachers.
“Despite the general narrative for all of us, this has been our best year of teaching,” Will said. “The pandemic brought up the best practices and healthcare ability to be flexible while enjoying our profession, each and every day.”
Strokes made the final plea from Jefferson’s teachers to the board asking to keep the school open one more year.
Two brothers who attend Jefferson, Deparis and Julius, grade 3 and 6 respectively, jumped at the chance to express their love for their school.
When Deparis was asked what his favorite thing about school this year was, he answered, “seeing all the teachers.”
According to Kim Cory, the dean of students at Jefferson, the day Deparis returned to in-person classes after being out for a while, he ran and jumped into his teacher’s arms.
Julius said his favorite thing about being at Jefferson is “eating in the classroom so we don't have to walk all the way down to the cafeteria. I like having my backpack and stuff in the classroom too, so I don’t have to run all the way to my locker.”
After Deparis and Julius earned a few chuckles and deep smiles from Board members, Cory presented what the Jefferson staff learned during the 2020-2021 school year.
What Jefferson staff has learned:
Caring for the students first while performing all duties of the job.
Teachers playing with kids during recess is great for students.
Behavior turnarounds after caring for the students first.
Lean in. Even more when it’s uncomfortable or “not right.”
So what! What are we going to do going forward….the Now What.
No Blaming, No Shaming. Solutions and ideas only.
Love Hard. Choose Joy.
Hold one another accountable.
“The kids felt like they belonged and the staff felt like they belong, so we just came tonight to tell you how much we appreciate you opening Jefferson for us this year and how much fun we've had and the good times and the good memories that we've had and look forward to whatever the future brings,” Cory said.
Board member Nikki Buck has a child currently attending Jefferson and commended Cory on everything she and her staff has done to support her child during a rough time for them.
“We were struggling and I asked for help and Kim and all the staff were there immediately,” Buck said. “They came and created a plan for my son so he wouldn't fail, and so he could keep up while he was going through his medical issues, so I'm very thankful that you were able to, you know, do that.”
The board has yet to come to any agreement as to what will happen to Jefferson and there is no decision timeline set in place.
Board member Anna Ostendorf said, “There is obviously some really great things that have happened at Jefferson this year and if Jefferson isn't able to be part of, you know, be open at school into the future, we should see how we can bring that sense of community into our other buildings and continue to keep what has worked.”