I had the pleasure this past week of celebrating a birthday in the midst of the chaos that has been unfolding around us, and wow, did I get the most amazing present this year!

The staff and leadership teams at Pequot Lakes Schools gifted to me - and to all of us - such selfless, innovative and tireless efforts that I think it’s safe to say we should probably believe in miracles.

The pressure on schools to implement and change protocols to help students and the community stay healthy felt enormous as our spring break came to a close the week of March 9-13. Our teams had prepared all throughout spring break by intensifying cleaning routines, purchasing supplies and outlining new protocols to put in place as students returned amidst the growing fear of a pandemic.

Then on Sunday morning, March 15, the governor announced the closure of schools and a “land a man on the moon” directive to prepare for distance learning for every student so it could start as early as March 30. By noon that Sunday, our district administrators were assembled at the district office, and we took a moment to watch the two-minute clip of Apollo 13, in which the scientists and engineers were told to bring the men back to earth alive as failure was simply not an option.

Indeed, it felt - and still feels - very much like an Apollo 13 moment for those of us working in education.

Within days, we began serving meal bags with breakfast and lunch for all children 18 and younger. If the governor extends the closure, Pequot Lakes Schools will begin delivering those meals via regular bus routes and group drop-off locations. Childcare services were launched immediately at Eagle View Elementary School for families that serve in healthcare, emergency services, education, and now also core public operations such as maintaining our food supplies and core utilities.

Last week on Monday and Tuesday, our school leadership teams assembled to map out an eight-day Apollo 13 process and on Wednesday and Thursday, all staff began the work of redesigning education to facilitate distance learning for every single student.

For my birthday this year, I received the opportunity to work side by side with leaders that simply refuse to consider failure an option. I’ve seen job descriptions and normal work roles become irrelevant, rigid mentalities about what school is supposed to look like be blown away in an instant, and I’ve seen the amazing love that our entire Patriot staff has for our students on display in magical and moving ways.

Our team has made some mistakes and experienced some failures, and we know more of those will happen as we work through thousands and thousands of “what abouts.” However, this team has been demonstrating a spirit of recklessness for doing the greater good that has left me in awe over and over again.

Patriot staff, thank you for the most amazing birthday present ever. To our Patriot families, the days ahead are uncharted territory, and I can think of no other team I would rather be part of to dive into such a challenging, but also exhilarating, endeavor.

We ask for your patience and flexibility, and we also ask that you join us in creating an absolutely overwhelming culture of love, care, respect, innovation and small-district pride so that every student and parent feels cared for and a part of something magical and positive.

Only together can we achieve the goal of loving, caring for and educating each and every student. We will be stronger and better for it. Stay healthy and Go Patriots!!

Chris Lindholm is Pequot Lakes School superintendent.