While walking through her children’s elementary school in Minneapolis this week, Kelly McKenzie noticed a sign on the bathroom door: “No soap. No toilet paper. No paper towel.”
Mackenzie was already sending extra food with her children to supplement the cold, given a “picnic-style” lunch this week, the district’s school meal agreement expires on June 10. She said she may have included hand soap and paper towels. If she knew in her children’s backpacks they would also end up in Jefferson Elementary, soon to be renamed Ella Baker.
The Minneapolis school year went into overtime this week, the first of two extra weeks this spring to make up for lost time during teacher edits. In addition to the cool fare and missing soap, it was also a time to have fun outside to ease the hassle of a postponed summer vacation.
In Minneapolis schools, only bathroom tissue dispensers are not empty. There are also many desks, especially in high school, as many parents have excused their children from attending classes for the last two weeks, and many graduating seniors did not need it. Even so, owning one is still beyond the reach of the average person. Parents of Washburn High School received an explanatory message that students who had been excused should not enter the building to “hang out.”
Students who travel by city bus to get to class were further surprised on Monday when they learned that their passes had expired. Metro transit drivers have asked students to flash their passes to catch a ride during the school year.
Chris Flannery, a father of three from Minneapolis Public Schools, said, “I don’t blame anyone here, and it’s hard for all parties, not just parents.” His daughter, who is new to Washburn, learned over the weekend that her bus pass was no longer valid.
His two young children, who study at Clara Barton Elementary, were getting up early to pack their meals, deciding they didn’t like cold school sandwiches.
Still, Flannery said teachers are looking for ways to make connected days more enjoyable. Her high school, which usually plays the bass, got her to change instruments with her classmates, and also learned two simple songs on Sanai.
The students at Sheridan Elementary – who will soon be becoming Las Estrellas – are also having some fun at the end of the year. He spent Friday in a nearby park for a field day of enthusiastic sports, including the Tug of War, obstacle course, and potato sack races.
Student and teacher absenteeism has increased this week, but attendance for Field Day has improved, said Principal Yajira Guzman Carrero. For next week, however, she has approved about 50 excused absences in a school of 350 students.
While the fun activity is a positive way to cope with a turbulent year, Guzman Carrero said she instructed teachers to make sure the last two weeks included routines and new lessons.
“It’s time to learn more,” she said. “It’s important for kids to know that they’re coming for a purpose and a cause.”
Laura Zimmermann is trying to find a way to help her daughter, who is a junior at Washburn, find that purpose, especially since she was excused from going to class. While her peers at other high schools have some new assignments, Zimmerman’s daughter estimates that she will have about 35 hours of school work this week.
“I just kept telling her, ‘If you’re thinking of this as a summer vacation, it’s a lot of work,'” Zimmerman said. “But if you think it’s the end of the school year, it’s closer to normal.”
Meghan Sawyer, a mother of two from Sheridan, attended the school’s Field Day on Friday.
“It’s been a good two weeks for us,” she said. “It’s hard to be upset right now about what happened in this school year. You just have to learn to roll with it.”
After Mackenzie and other parents publicly complained, the district assured parents Friday that there is an adequate supply of bathrooms.