Owatonna Public Schools

District Newsletter

November 2020

COVID-19 Update

We all know that COVID cases in Minnesota and across the country are on the rise. The case count in Steele County has risen in the last few weeks as well. Because we are using multiple data points to make decisions about our schools, the current learning model of in-person at elementary and hybrid for middle and school will remain in effect.

When Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan was delivered to school districts across the state on July 30th, the guidance around when to make a shift in learning models was specifically tied to county case numbers. At that time, that was the only piece of data readily available. Since then, we have worked with Steele County and Minnesota Department of Health to find additional data sources that better inform our decisions as a school district.

These data sources include:

  1. COVID-19 tracking data for each building in our school district.

  2. COVID-19 positivity rates within our school district.

  3. Location information for county case data identifying if the locations have potential for school district spread.

  4. County case numbers and county positivity rates.

Susan Klammer, our regional representative from the Minnesota Department of Health, told us recently, “We are urging local school districts to consider county case numbers as a factor in the decision-making, but not the most important factor. Local school data and positivity rates within schools should be the data we are prioritizing to make any decisions about changing learning models.”

Our local Steele County Public Health Director Amy Caron agreed, saying, “We are working closely with Owatonna Public Schools to examine the multiple data points including school-specific data and other positivity metrics that go into making any learning model changes.”

We will continue to monitor all of these data points on a daily basis and use the guidance of public health experts to make the best and safest decisions for our students and staff. We regularly post updated information about our COVID-19 response here. Right now, all the data points to staying the course.

Thank you for continuing to do your part to limit COVID-19 spread and keep our schools open by wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands. Together, we can fight this virus!

What are the levy requests on the Nov. 3rd ballot?

The Nov. 3rd election is not just to elect our next president and other leaders, but also to determine what level of local school funding Owatonna Public Schools will receive. On the back of the ballot are two school funding requests:

  • Question 1 requests a straight renewal of the district’s existing operating levy which is about to expire. Operating levies provide critical funding for staff, classroom supplies and other school operating costs.

  • Question 2 requests a phased-in increase to the district’s operating levy in 2022 and 2025. By phasing in the levy over time, the tax impact is also phased in - with no tax increase until 2022. If approved, funds would enable the district to maintain quality programming and activities, appropriate class sizes and career-technical education opportunities. Question 2 is contingent on Question 1 and can only pass if Question 1 is first approved by voters.

One common question is, “How is this different from the high school funding that voters approved in 2019?” The answer: Last year, Owatonna residents approved bond funds to build a new Owatonna High School. By law, bond funds can only be used to maintain, repair or build buildings - they cannot support school operating costs. The requests on this Nov 3rd ballot are for operating levies, which are a legally separate funding stream that provides critical funding for classrooms, instructional materials and other school operating costs.

Please be an informed voter and get the facts on these requests. Everything you need to know is on our levy website. If you have questions, please call the referendum phone line (507-444-8650) or email levy@isd761.org.

Early voting still available!

County offices have extended hours if you’d like to vote prior to November 3rd.

  • Steele County residents: Auditor's Office, 630 Florence Ave, Owatonna.

    • Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm through November 2 - and Saturday, October 31, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

  • Waseca County residents: Auditor-Treasurer’s Office, Waseca County Courthouse, 307 N State St, Waseca

    • Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. through November 2 - and Saturday, October 31, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (open until 5:00 p.m. on November 2).

Get the facts on the two Owatonna Public Schools operating levy questions on the ballot at www.isd761.org/levy.

Mission Moment

Each month at its regular meeting, the School Board of Owatonna Public Schools recognizes individual students and/or staff members who exemplify the district’s mission of inspiring excellence - every learner, every day.

On October 26, Shaun Robbins, OMS Industrial Tech Teacher was recognized for his volunteer work for Shields of Steele. Mr. Robbins was one of the first people to volunteer for Shields of Steele to help create face shields during the pandemic. He delivered 30 shields a night throughout the spring, and he continued to volunteer throughout the summer.

We are #OwatonnaProud of our staff and students for living our mission of inspiring excellence and helping to provide a safe and caring community!

Watch the video from the October 26 Board meeting.

Flu Vaccination Clinic - Homeland Health Specialists

The best protection you can get and give is a flu shot.

When: Saturday, November 7, 9:00 am-12:00 pm

Where: Roosevelt Community School, 122 McKinley Street East

Minimum age: 6 months and up

Click here for more information.

Free COVID-19 Test at Home

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is offering Minnesotans more and different options for COVID-19 testing. You can now order a COVID-19 saliva test online that will be shipped to your home, along with a prepaid package to return it. When you are ready to take the test, you will log onto a website and do a video visit with a health care provider so they can give you instructions and make sure you do the test the right way. You then send the test to the lab in Oakdale, Minnesota, using the prepaid package. Once it arrives at the lab, you will get your test results by email as soon as 24-48 hours.

Click here for more information or to order a free at-home COVID-19 saliva test.

Virtual Coffee and Conversation with the Superintendent

The community is invited to join Superintendent Elstad for a virtual “coffee and conversation” on Friday, November 13 at 8:30 a.m. Hear an update on what’s been happening within the school district and bring any questions you have.

RSVP by emailing shoffman@isd761.org by the end of the day on Wednesday, November 11 to receive the virtual meeting details. We hope you are able to participate!

Inclement Weather and School Closing Reminders

The first snowfall has come and gone, but we can certainly expect more to come in the months that follow. Our approach to inclement weather days will be changing this year due to our new experiences with virtual learning. We will use E-Learning days where students in grades K-12 will continue learning from home with support from their teachers instead of going into school.


In the event that we are forecasting a winter storm that may impact school for the next day(s), we will be issuing personal devices and charging cords to all K-5 students the day before the expected storm. Individual teachers will provide guidance on activities for the actual inclement weather days.


All students will be expected to check in and engage according to their daily scheduled classes and expectations.

Please call your child's school if you have any questions about the process.

Don't Miss Important Updates

When decisions are made to alter the school day or cancel it due to inclement weather, every effort is made to communicate that decision to parents in a timely manner through our school messenger system, the website, and local radio and TV stations.

Parents can choose to receive notifications via text message, phone call, email, and/or parent portal inbox messages. To help us contact households efficiently, be sure to update home, work and/or cell phone information in the Infinite Campus Parent Portal, and verify that the appropriate boxes are checked to receive notifications. This will ensure that you automatically receive information about weather-related school closures in a timely manner.

Other ways to stay informed:

  • Visit the website: www.isd761.org
  • Check local TV stations: KSTP- 5, KMSP FOX 9, WCCO, KEYC TV, KTTC, KAAL
  • Listen to local radio stations: KOWZ, KRFO/KAT KOUNTRY 105, KDHL

World's Best Workforce Annual Meeting

On Monday, November 23 at 5:00 pm, we'll be live-streaming the World's Best Workforce Annual Meeting. The live-stream video will be available on our YouTube channel at 5:00 pm on the 23rd. This meeting is an invitation to hear a district status report and focused action steps as to how the district is addressing these goal areas set by the Minnesota Legislature:

  1. All children are ready for school.
  2. All third graders can read at grade level.
  3. All racial and economic achievement gaps between students are closed.
  4. All students are ready for career and college.
  5. All students graduate from high school.

Learn more about our strategic plan and commitments, and view our World's Best Workforce annual report by visiting our school district dashboard.

Stay Connected!

Celebrate our students, our staff and our schools by following us on social media. If you like what you see, be sure to share it with others. Together, we are #OwatonnaProud!

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