Owatonna Public Schools

District Newsletter

October 2020

Update From the Superintendent

We are now a month into the most unusual school year any of us have ever experienced. Thanks to the hard work, creativity, persistence and patience of staff, parents and students, I am pleased to report that things are going well. Our elementary students are attending school in-person every day, following social distancing and other health guidelines. Our secondary students attend school in-person two days a week and participate in distance learning the other three days. We are so grateful for the partnerships that make all this possible.


We are in regular contact with our partners at Steele County Public Health regarding the most up-to-date COVID case numbers for Steele County. Our trend data indicates that we had a slight increase to 19.05 cases per 10,000 in early September, but since then we have been trending downward to our current rate of 14.72 cases per 10,000.


This case count and our trend data indicate that our current learning models of everyday in-person learning with hybrid protocols including smaller class sizes and social distancing for elementary students and hybrid learning for grades 6-12 are working, per education and health guidelines provided by the state.


Each month, we will provide an update on our COVID trends and learning model data. In the event that we have a large outbreak of community transmission, we are prepared to switch to distance learning for all students - and we would notify parents immediately using our parent contact system. If we continue to see our case numbers trending downward, we are also prepared to consider engaging our students more frequently with in-person instruction. Whatever we do, the health, safety and educational experience of our students and staff are our priorities. Please look for the next COVID and learning model update in our November e-newsletter.


Also in November is the election on November 3, which is important for many reasons - including the fact that our community will decide whether to provide additional funding for our schools. If the two Owatonna Public Schools levy requests are approved by voters, they will provide critical funding to support our classrooms, instructional materials, staff and other school operating costs. More information about the Levy 2020 requests are in this newsletter.


Thank you for your continued support for our schools, our students and our staff! We are #OwatonnaProud!


Jeff Elstad, Superintendent

jelstad@isd761.org, 507-444-8601

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.


During the September 28 Board meeting, Owatonna High School students Brody Erola and Eli Knutson, both members of Boy Scout Troop 253, were recognized for their work in transforming the gardens at Lincoln Elementary School. Brody worked with Dr. Meagher on one of the school’s entrance areas where drainage during heavy rains was a problem. They created a plan that would improve the drainage problems, be aesthetically pleasing, and provide additional outside learning spaces for our Lincoln students. Eli worked with Dr. Meagher to recreate a garden area that was removed due to the construction of the new gym, music and art wing of the building. Their plan incorporated raised beds, mound gardening along with root viewers, and an outdoor learning area with benches and work tables.


Many of the learning standards in science can be explored by Lincoln students in these new areas. These Eagle Scout projects proved to be a win-win for all involved. Brody and Eli are two high school students who truly inspire excellence, every day!


Watch the video from the September 28 Board meeting.

Levy Request is On Back of Ballot

The Nov. 3 election has many important races at stake, including President, national and local leaders. When you vote - whether early or on Election Day - be sure to flip the ballot over and also vote on the two Owatonna Public Schools levy requests that are listed on the back.


  • 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 in 2021. If approved, funds would enable the district to maintain quality programming and activities, appropriate class sizes and career-technical education opportunities.


You can learn all the facts about the levy requests in this 3-minute video or by visiting the Levy 2020 website. Thank you for being an informed voter on November 3!

Owatonna Referendum Final

Coffee and Conversation with the Superintendent

The community is invited to join Superintendent Elstad for a virtual “coffee and conversation” on Friday, October 9 at 8:00 a.m. Hear an update on what’s been happening within the school district and bring any questions you have.


RSVP to shoffman@isd761.org by the end of the day on Wednesday, October 7 to receive the virtual meeting details. We hope you are able to participate!

Levy 2020 Information Session October 5, 6:30 p.m.

In the upcoming election, Owatonna Public Schools residents will be asked to vote on two school funding requests to maintain quality academic programs and support services for students.


Superintendent Jeff Elstad will lead a Levy 2020 Information Session that attendees can watch in-person or via livestream from the comfort of their own homes. There will be a presentation on the Levy 2020 requests for additional school funding from our community, followed by time for Q&A. Questions can be submitted to levy@isd761.org.


When: Monday, Oct. 5, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Owatonna High School’s Small Group Forum - OR - view via livestream (link posted on the Levy 2020 website).

Questions? Email levy@isd761.org or call 507.444.8650


Please note that masks and social distancing will be required for all in-person attendees.

Free meals are back!

Owatonna Public Schools is offering meals at no cost to all children ages 1-18 regardless of income. Free meals will be available through December 31st, 2020 or until USDA funding is exhausted.


How are free meals being provided?


In-Person Learning: Students will receive breakfast and lunch meals using the same process that was started at the beginning of the school year, but they will receive these meals at no cost as of Monday, September 14th.


Hybrid Learning for Secondary Students: Students have the opportunity to take free meal bundles home on their last in-person learning day to be eaten on their distance learning days. Meals are available at the end of the school day. Students in Group 1 typically pick up to-go meals on Tuesdays and students in Group 2 pick up to-go meals on Fridays.


Distance Learning: Meal bundles are still available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. - 9:00 a.m. at the following locations:


  • McKinley Elementary - 1050 22nd Street NE - Main Entrance / Door #1
  • Owatonna Middle School - 500 15th Street NE - Main Entrance / Door #1
  • Owatonna High School - 333 E School St - Door # 16


Meals for Non-Enrolled Children: Meals can be picked up for any child between the ages of 1 and 18 in the Owatonna community and surrounding area at no cost starting Tuesday, September 15th. Meal pick up is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. at the following locations:


  • McKinley Elementary - 1050 22nd Street NE - Main Entrance / Door #1
  • Owatonna Middle School - 500 15th Street NE - Main Entrance / Door #1
  • Owatonna High School - 333 E School St - Door # 16


Meal bundles contain multiple days worth of meals. Families can go to any of the three locations to pick up meals for all children ages 1-18 years old. To assist us with meal planning, please complete a weekly form available here to sign up for meal bundles.


To learn more, visit our website, or call Nutrition Services at 507-444-8616.

Red Ribbon Week

October 26-October 30, 2020

Annual Drug Prevention Week


Kick-Off Drive-Through Event

October 22, 5:00-6:30

Steele County Fairgrounds, Foundation Building


Even during these uncertain times, we are looking for ways to promote a healthy lifestyle for our youth. Substance use and abuse has been on the rise during our global pandemic. Please join our schools and community as we celebrate Red Ribbon Week during the month of October. This is an annual national drug prevention celebration.


Families are encouraged to attend our Red Ribbon Week Kickoff drive-through event at the Owatonna Fairgrounds Foundation Building, located on the east side of the fairgrounds. Students can wear their Halloween costumes and drive through with their parents. The Foundation Building will be transformed into a beautiful fall theme. SHOC students will be handing out a bag of Halloween treats and prizes to all the kids. There will be a fall-themed photo booth for kids to have their picture taken along with SHOC students and put their name in a bucket for door prize drawings. The coalition will be sharing literature with parents about how to help keep their kids healthy and drug-free.


Support our youth and encourage each of them to make a pledge to live a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. We hope to see everyone at the Fairgrounds on Oct. 22nd, 5:00-6:30 at our drive-through Red Ribbon Week kick-off event in the Foundation Building!


Click here to learn more about Red Ribbon Week.

State of the District

The State of the District address was a live-stream event held on Wednesday, September 23, 2020 at 6:30 pm. If you missed it, you can visit our website to watch the recorded video to get a first-hand update from Superintendent Jeff Elstad on current initiatives in the district: back-to-school during a pandemic, new high school, Levy 2020 and more. Thank you for watching!

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!


Follow us:

@Owatonna761

Inspiring Excellence - Every Learner, Every Day

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