As the clock on summer begins to wind down, and educators and parents prepare for an uncertain school year, Owatonna Superintendent Jeff Elstad shared a message with the district Friday. In a video emailed by the school district, Elstad said, "Student and staff safety has always been, and will always be, our number one priority. During each of our planning sessions this summer, as we diligently look at each of those scenarios, safety starts and ends every conversation."

Districts are under the direction of the Department of Education to prepare for three options for school in the fall. In-person class would come with "strict adherence to Minnesota Department of Health and CDC guidelines," said Elstad. If the year starts with distance learning, he said, "We made improvements based on what we learned last spring." A hybrid of in-person and distant learning is also possible. Click here to see the video on YouTube.

In a document from the education department titled Guidance for Families - Planning for the 2020-21 School Year, it is stated, "Due to the unpredictable nature of the virus, school districts and charter schools may need to use more than one scenario during the school year."

It's been reported that the governor and state health officials will offer the plan for the school year the week of July 27. Elstad says, "It is our commitment to you that we will communicate with you as families the very next week our finalized plan for the Owatonna Public Schools."

He said families will receive a survey to find out how many are seeking a distance learning option, "We are committed to serving all of our students and will find a plan that works together in partnership with all of you."

"We dearly miss our students and we're trying our best to make decisions that both honor the fact that I feel we do our best work when our students are present, yet honor the safety that all of our students should be guaranteed."

Elstad says the staff is preparing for all three education models and that any mistakes will lead to "better decision tomorrow and the next best possible solution."