I have never been more proud of the Hastings school staff, and I am grateful for each and every one of them. Working alongside the staff as our district’s school board chair, I’ve watched the amazing commitment that they show our students each day. In these past weeks, I’ve seen that commitment play out in an unprecedented crisis.

The day after Gov. Tim Walz announced that school districts needed to develop distance learning plans, our district took immediate action and worked together to start developing solutions. Our staff has been level-headed, systematic and focused on two things: the safety and well-being of our students. We are committed to making sure each and every student has what they need to grow and learn.

We know that this experience will be very difficult, but I’m writing today to help you see what I see every day: parents, students, teachers and staff showing up for each other in this community. Together, we can support each other through this.

Child care

Hastings schools will be providing child care for both Tier 1 and 2 essential workers. Extended child care is also being provided to these workers at no extra cost. We are doing what we can to support these parents, help them continue working, and help our community in the process.

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Food security

Food security for our students has also been a primary focus during this school closure. We know many children depend on school breakfast and lunch to get the nutrition that they need. For that reason, during the week, our district is delivering 2,000 meal bags a day (each with breakfast and lunch) that are brought to bus stops and our school sites.

Equitable learning

For many families, distance learning will be difficult due to lack of tech devices and/or wi-fi. Our schools are getting as many devices out to students as we can and we have distributed all of our wi-fi hotspots to families in need. Xfinity wi-fi hotspots are also currently free to anyone who needs them.

Valuing our workers

While our education model may currently look different, one thing remains the same: we have an amazing staff that steps up to any challenge in order to support our kids. We’ve had teachers, paraprofessionals, and other staff volunteer to help with child care and meal prep and our bus drivers have been delivering meals to kids across our district. Each day our employees bring smiles to the kids they see, and right now, that is invaluable.

Community partners

I am also grateful for community partners whose services provide additional support to our community. For parents who are not Tier 1 or 2 employees, the YMCA has limited child care available for $40 a day. For community members who need additional food, Hastings Family Service is offering a drive-thru food shelf, the YMCA has take-out bagged meals for those in need, and the United Way is working with schools to continue their Food4Kids weekend backpack program.

Right now, many of us are worried about employment and health care, small businesses are afraid of closing, and we are all concerned for loved ones in high risk categories. I know that the coming weeks will be difficult, but as we weather this storm, I am reassured by what my time on the school board has taught me about our community: from our staff’s tireless work to the parents helping their children learn at home, we will hold each other up. The Hastings School Board is thinking about our community members and we are here to help. As always, please reach out with any ideas or concerns.