It's all hands on deck for start of classes at PR-B

Classrooms will have fewer students and more space

090220.PEJ.PRBfallsemester (1).JPG
Classrooms this fall will have far fewer students and much more space in the fall semester. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Tuesday, Sept. 8 - the first day of school - is nearly here, and it has taken a lot of work to prepare to host students at Pine River-Backus Schools for the fall semester.

While the district had been working hard to plan for in-person learning for every student, the decision in August to follow a hybrid model may be providing the school with more space to spread out and socially distance. Under the hybrid model, students from seventh grade and up will attend classes virtually. Students in grades K-6 will attend school in person every day.

Virtual classes will see those older students following a regular class schedule and watching their teachers give lessons while livestreaming, so they'll be able to answer and ask questions much like in a real classroom. The difference is, while doing classroom work, students don't necessarily need to be planted in front of their computer.

The hybrid system will allow the school district to open up space on buses to allow for social distancing.

In-person classrooms for students in grades K-6 will also follow social distancing, which requires those students to be divided into smaller classrooms. To make this a reality, it was all hands on deck for teachers who usually would tackle classes of a different sort.


Because some physical education, music and STEAM classes are being put off this year, those teachers are being asked to help teach general education classes. The start of the school year will have its challenges, but Superintendent Jon Clark believes the district is in a good position to start the semester.

"We're so lucky we have the support we have here," Clark said. "Talking with other superintendents and listening to networks and stuff I know there's a lot of places that are really struggling. We have our struggles, but I think we have a pretty good vision of where we want to go."

Parents who do not feel comfortable with in-person classes have the option of having their children participate in distance learning. The district learned from its distance learning experience during spring semester and plans to offer a better, more consistent experience. Some parents have opted to start home schooling.

"We have seven students - five families - that have opted for the home schooling option," Clark said. "For distance learning, I don't know the exact number because it keeps changing. We had a lot of families that first decided to distance learn, but as they learned about the options and how we're doing things, they decided to come back to us for in-person learning."

During the Aug. 17 school board meeting, the number of students opting to distance learn was approximately 50. Since then Clark and the school district have worked hard to educate parents on the how the district will operate this fall. That has given some confidence for young students to return.

In addition to buses and classrooms, dining will also be a different experience. Students who are present in K-6 classrooms will eat at their desks rather than crowding into the cafeteria. In addition, the district will continue to offer lunch shipments for students who are taking classes from home.

Students in grades 7-12 who need to meet with their teachers for any reason will have the option of making an appointment to come to school on Fridays. There will not be enough time slots for all students to come to school every Friday, but the district is working on a system to make it work for students.

For those students, the district is working on bus routes that will allow them to come in in the morning and leave before the end of the school day, possibly in conjunction with lunch deliveries.


Some students identified by the school's leadership will also qualify for in-person high school classes.

Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at

090220.PEJ.PRBfallsemester (2).JPG
Classrooms this fall will have far fewer students and much more space in the fall semester. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
What To Read Next
Get Local