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Determined Oakdale Students Making Most Of Their Return
Oakdale High School seniors Julianna Forkner, left, and Madison Hoffman share mixed emotions on returning to campus for the last couple of months in the 2020-21 school year. Teresa Hammond/The Leader

While it may look different than it once did, as social distancing is observed, masks worn and a “block” schedule adhered to for the secondary campuses – the fact still remains – on campus learning has returned.

“It was always our goal from day one to have our kids back in class,” Superintendent of Schools, Marc Malone shared. “Everything that we have done in regards to how we set up our plans, the technical side of this … to navigate the virus and educate kids in the virus, was always to get kids back in the presence of our teachers live.”

Oakdale High School seniors Julianna Forkner and Madison Hoffman shared thoughts on returning to the campus they left midway through their junior year in 2020.

“It definitely feels good. It’s definitely been an adjustment,” Forkner shared. “At first it was kind of nerve wracking, you know because it’s been so long. But it is good to be back and see everybody, we just keep trying to be positive and do what we can. So when it finally happened it felt surreal that it was actually happening.

Fellow classmate Hoffman stated she felt as a senior there was a bit of a benefit to distance learning by way of knowing the expectations and having an established discipline. Traits which she noted felt fine tuned in preparation for the college years ahead of them.

“It’s definitely different being in person and able to interact with all the teachers,” Hoffman said. “I have heard from a lot of kids though that they’d rather have stayed on-line, because what’s the point of coming back for two months.”

The twelfth grader agreed that being on campus is a different social interaction, yet noted the suddenness did pose challenges for classmates who secured jobs during the pandemic.

“I think it was a little too sudden for some kids,” she said.

“This was always the goal of the entire board and to do it safely,” Malone said of returning students to campus. “As a district we had to find the best balance we could find. I believe that we’ve done that.”

The superintendent acknowledged that the return to campus was not a one size fits all solution and that some were unhappy with the decision. Sharing while some have excelled through the Distance Learning model, the majority have not. Malone also noted the importance of the mental and physical well-being for students to physically be in front of their teachers.

“Our plan, as we said from the start was to get our kids in front of our teachers,” he said. “Our plan was to get our kids in front of our professionals, because our professionals are good at what they do.”

Forkner shared that while the off campus instruction was less than ideal from the social angle, she found herself using the opportunity to self-reflect as well as apply new disciplines, as Hoffman had noted.

“Now it’s great definitely to see people again and be out,” she said. “That year you just had to focus on yourself which is great because it helped me grow.

“The last couple of weeks when we found out that we were going to be coming back, I definitely felt more happiness and a sense of hope again,” Forkner added.

Forkner and Hoffman are both student athletes, an activity they candidly shared they not only missed, but were grateful to be able to return to even if for a limited amount of time.

“My hope is that when we get to the other side of this and we look collectively as a society and as educators, that we will acknowledge that distance learning for grades TK-12 is a failed experiment for the vast majority of kids,” Malone said. “Are there some TK-12 are still maturing, still trying to figure out things and don’t see the relevance to it.”

As for the seniors, with just weeks left in the 2020-2021 school year, they are anxious and excited to see what graduation will look like and as they embark on The Corral for one final time they now feel prepared for what’s next.