Owatonna Public Schools

District Newsletter - May 2021

Back to Better!

The following is part of an article by Superintendent Jeff Elstad that was published in the Owatonna People's Press and Steele County Times in April - click here to read the full article

As the adage goes, “with great challenge, comes great opportunity.” I am hopeful that the past year will provide some lessons learned and we can not only bring back normal, but bring back better.

Owatonna Public Schools has been approved by the Minnesota Department of Education to offer a fully online learning program for learners in grades K-12. Our new virtual school, called Owatonna Online, offers students throughout Minnesota the opportunity to tailor learning to their individual needs and schedules. The past year has taught us to further personalize learning for students. For some students, a fully online program is the best match for their needs. Owatonna Online can also meet the needs of learners who may need a long-term leave from school because of illness or injury. Furthermore, this opportunity may be enticing for families that have either chosen another online learning program or have homeschooled their children in the past. Enrolling in Owatonna Online provides access to our fantastic teachers, support services, comprehensive curriculum - and our full slate of activities.

We are also excited to break ground on our new Owatonna High School. Many thanks to our community for supporting this project! The project is still on time and on budget. Thanks also to all those involved in keeping this project on track during the pandemic, keeping student opportunities front and center, and ensuring our new school will support our Career Pathway program.

As always, we welcome your involvement in our schools - and your support for our students and our staff. Together, we are #OwatonnaProud!

Mission Moment Spotlight

At the April 26 school board meeting, Superintendent Elstad recognized activities director Marc Achterkirch and the activities secretary Nancy Benson for their organizational leadership this year in providing a safe and caring community for our students in high school activities during a pandemic. We are #OwatonnaProud of their dedication and commitment to our students!

Each month at the 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.

Watch the video from the April 26 school board meeting.

Virtual Learning Option Available for Fall!

Did your student thrive in an online learning environment this school year? Would a more flexible school schedule benefit your family? Would your middle school or high school student benefit from some online options in addition to their in-person school day?

If you said yes to any of these questions, Owatonna Online might be right for you. Owatonna Online is a state-approved K-12 online public school open to all Minnesota students free of charge. Some of the benefits:

  • A computer/device provided to all students - and internet access for those who need it

  • Combination of live and independent learning opportunities

  • Online courses that meet all the Minnesota educational and high school graduation requirements

  • Support from licensed Owatonna Public Schools staff

  • Whole class and small group live sessions

  • Playlist of activities to complete independently

  • Learning Coach support to ensure success at home

  • Regular one-on-one check-ins with the classroom teacher

To learn more about this accredited online school that is supported by our licensed Owatonna Public Schools teachers, register for an upcoming informational webinar by completing this form - there are several dates in May to choose from. You can also learn more on the Owatonna Online website.

Questions? Contact Michelle Krell, Director Teaching and Learning, at mkrell@isd761.org or (507) 444-8613.

SPANISH: Si necesita ayuda para comprender este documento o si quiere obtener esta información en español, por favor comuníquese con:

Antonieta Sanchez-Mendez asanchez-mendez@isd761.org 507.444.8925

SOMALI: Hadii aad u baahan tahay in lagaa cawiyo fahmitaanka dukumiintigaan ama aad ku hesho macluumaadkaan Af somali, fadlan lasoo xiriir: Muna Hersi mhersi@isd761.org 507.444.8412

OTHER LANGUAGES: If you need help understanding this document or to have it translated into another language, please contact the district office at: 507.444.8634

New High School Groundbreaking Ceremony May 6

Owatonna Public Schools is hosting a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the new high school on Thursday, May 6 at 3:30 pm (rain or shine) at the new site located at 1945 18th Street SE, Owatonna. The event will include a few remarks by staff and students as well as a shovel ceremony involving community partners and planning committee members.

The community of Owatonna showed their support for a new high school in a big way, with local businesses offering generous financial support. Each local business expressed their commitment to Owatonna and the need to attract and retain quality employees through their combined financial gifts of $22 million plus in-kind donations. The tax impact for the Owatonna community was reduced by 20% thanks to the generosity of business donations from Federated Insurance, Mayo Clinic Health System, Viracon, Wenger Corporation, Wenger Foundation, and Gopher Sport.

After the community approved the construction of a new high school, other organizations stepped forward offering support. The ISD 761 Foundation and Owatonna Foundation each donated $250,000 to Owatonna Public Schools to construct a large community room within the new high school. And Cybex / Life Fitness has offered support for the weight and fitness room.

Community members assisted with the concept and final design of the new high school. Renderings of the new high school can be found on the school district’s website: www.isd761.org.

Staff and students of Owatonna Public Schools continue to be grateful for the community’s partnership and support for the school district and the new high school facility and look forward to this groundbreaking event.

COVID-19 Vaccine | GET IT

Why, where and how do I get it?

According to Dr. Gregory Poland, Mayo Clinic infectious disease expert, “Our way out of this (COVID-19 pandemic) is getting a vaccine.” Get it for family time. Get it for time with friends. Get it to come back. Get it to move forward. There are a lot of reasons to get the vaccine. Mayo Clinic Health System is currently vaccinating those who meet Minnesota’s criteria for vaccination. Call 507-434-9929 to schedule an appointment if you meet these criteria. Vaccine supply continues to be limited. If there are no open appointments, continue to check back and consider these additional tools to help you find vaccine in your community:

  • Vaccine Spotter is a tool that can help you track down COVID-19 appointment openings at Minnesota pharmacies (it’s updated every minute).

  • Follow MN VAX Alerts on Twitter and turn on notifications to know when something opens up.

  • Register for Minnesota COVID-19 Vaccine Connector now available in English, Spanish, Hmong, and Somali.

  • Connect with a COVID Community Coordinator that fits your needs with the ability to search by cultural community, language or county.

Coffee and Conversation with the Superintendent

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

Limited space is available, so please RSVP by emailing shoffman@isd761.org or calling 507-444-8610 by 4:00 Tuesday, May 11.

Summer Opportunities for Students

Over the last year, we lost time with our students, and we have created a robust program of summer opportunities for all of our students. We believe these experiences will provide not only skills that may have been missed, but important enrichment to re-engage our learners with collaboration and cooperative learning. We look forward to offering these unique experiences in our continued work to Inspire Excellence for Every Student, Every Day! Click this link for more information.

Register in person, online, or via phone.

Community Education Office

122 E. McKinley Street

Owatonna, MN 55060

Phone: (507)444-7900


Now is a good time to get started on back-to-school vaccinations!

Providers will likely have a larger than usual amount of vaccinations to do before sending kids back to school this fall. It’s important to keep up with routine vaccinations during the pandemic to prevent a future outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease. School vaccination requirements are still in place to help ensure kids are safe and healthy in school. Consider calling the clinic earlier this year to avoid a rush later this summer.

COVID-19 Vaccinations Available for Ages 16+

Use the CDC’s Vaccine Finder to schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine at a pharmacy near you or sign up on Minnesota’s COVID-19 Vaccine Connector to receive more information about vaccine opportunities.

Getting vaccinated will help give Minnesota’s teens the best chance to learn in-person, participate in sports and activities, attend graduation and go to prom. Of course, they still need to remain vigilant in regards to masking, hand washing and social distancing. And for those still too young to be vaccinated, testing is critical. Learn more about Minnesota’s no-cost, barrier-free testing options.

School Board Meetings

Beginning in May, in order to accommodate in-person meetings, allow public attendance, and meet social distancing guidelines, school board meetings and work sessions will be held at Owatonna High School in the Small Group Forum (across from the gym).

For more information, including a list of meeting dates, visit the school district website.


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