Pequot Lakes School District: Board receives distance learning update

Lockers at Pequot Lakes Middle School stand open and empty Friday, March 20. Nancy Vogt / Echo Journal

Albeit remotely, all members of the Pequot Lakes School Board attended the regularly scheduled work session Monday, April 6. Once there, they received updates from superintendent Chris Lindholm and the district principals regarding distance learning.

The district began a distance learning program Monday, March 30, on the orders of Gov. TIm Walz, who closed schools in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I haven't, in my entire career, put in more time and energy and decision-making than our team has had to do in the last four weeks,” Lindholm said. “But I'll tell you, I'm incredibly proud of the work that our staff and our principals have done, and everyone who's just grabbed whatever they had to grab and threw out job descriptions - from custodians and paras hopping on buses to deliver food or hopping in the kitchen to help there. What we have seen is pretty remarkable.”

Lindholm admitted many issues were faced those first two days, as teachers, administrators and staff settled into the new normal of distance learning.

“Last Monday (March 30), I think most people would tell you, was a pretty hard day,” he said. “We not only launched distance learning for the first time and teachers were fumbling through things they hadn't done before, but the same day, we pushed out all of the Chromebooks that we could on Monday and on Tuesday all the packets that teachers had prepared.”


Things settled into a bit of a groove by Wednesday and Thursday, April 1-2, and the district was getting fewer phone calls from parents. Even still, teachers are still adapting to a new system of education.

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“We have to remember that even for a veteran teacher who has done this for 25 years, this was like being a first-year teacher on the first day of school.” - Pequot Lakes superintendent, Chris Lindholm

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“We have to remember that even for a veteran teacher who has done this for 25 years, this was like being a first-year teacher on the first day of school,” Lindholm said.

On Friday, April 3, the district delivered 2,188 meals. Students receive a bag around mid-morning that contains lunch for that day and then breakfast for the next morning.

Many families have set out coolers so those delivering food can set meals inside and there is no person-to-person interaction. The board wanted to remind the public those coolers are not to be taken.

Families of students that would like meals delivered are encouraged to call the school office.


Another key focus for the administration team is attending to the mental health and well-being of its staff working both from home and in the building.

“A big challenge - one every one of us is feeling - is that isolation is not good for our mental health. It’s just not,” Lindholm said. “The truth is teachers go into teaching because they love the kids, and they love seeing them. A really big challenge that we are talking about is just the mental health of our faculty and staff and the people that are used to giving hugs every day.”

Various high school events like prom, the Day of Caring and the Relay for Life have been canceled. For other events like graduation, the district will wait for further direction from the governor.

Lindholm said there has been a great deal of success connecting with kids electronically at the middle school and elementary level. A higher percentage of high school students have not checked in online, nor have they responded to emails and phone calls from their teachers.

For students still struggling with a lack of internet connection, the district has ordered hotspots that can be delivered by buses, but those hotspots may take some time before they arrive in the district.

The somewhat likely scenario that a staff member eventually contracts COVID-19, and how the district responds to that, keeps him awake at night, Lindholm told the board.

“(The Minnesota Department of Health) has given us a whole lot of a lack of clarity on stuff like that. So just be prepared as a board,” he said. “You know, I think that day is coming and the fear is real, and people do crazy things in that emotion of fear. So, prepare for that, just emotionally, at some point somebody on our team will be diagnosed with something and people will freak out. We will have to respond as calmly and as orderly as we can and help people just know that we're doing the best we can with what we've got, and we are gonna keep going ahead.”

The board also discussed how distance learning may affect grading for the spring semester, as well as compensation for hourly staff on March 16 and 17, when school was closed but the governor’s closure order was not yet in effect. Decisions will likely be made at the board’s Monday, April 20, meeting.


Dan Determan may be reached at 218-855-5879 or Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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