Questions about the 2020-2021 Alvarado-Warren-Oslo school year abound

From left are Mike Curfman, Northland Thief River Falls campus dean, Joe Griffin, Northland auto service technology instructor, Dennis Bona, Northland president, Nathan Wozniak, Warren Alvarado Oslo industrial technology instructor, and Mark Johnson Northland auto service technology instructor. (Submitted photo)

With school likely resuming in less than two months, a lot of questions remain unanswered about the form that education will be delivered to students in the Warren-Alvarado-Oslo School District.

The rural school district made up of 495 students from the three towns and the surrounding area that bears their names, like other districts across Minnesota, are waiting for direction from Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz. The announcement is expected at the end of July.

Minnesota schools, which are slated to start Sept. 8, will see elementary-grade students, as well as those in grades 7-12 who attend the high school, will be bused to Warren. The Oslo school district combined with the Alvarado-Warren School District in 1996, three years after Alvarado and Warren combined their districts into one.

During the next two weeks, the W-A-0 School District, school representatives, school board members and the school nurse will hold meetings to talk about what school will look like under various scenarios, said Kirk Thorstenson, W-A-O superintendent. The options include in-school learning, distance learning or a combination of both.

Related: Oslo weathers adversity from flood, virus with rural doggedness | Oslo centenarian known as man about town | Oslo: Small town offers good living


Thorstenson said he believes distance learning is the most likely scenario Walz will choose. While that is optimal for safety reasons, he doesn’t believe that it’s the best way to teach elementary students.

Thorstenson ,a former W-A-O elementary principal, believes that face-to-face contact is important in teaching children, particularly early readers, in primary grades.

Last spring, when Gov. Walz closed schools to stem the spread of coronavirus, students in the lower grades primarily did packets of worksheets supplemented with online learning. The packets were hand-delivered to students by volunteers with their lunches or by teachers.

Intermediate, older elementary students, and high school students did most of their distance learning online.

“It went as well as it possibly could, with the short amount of time we had to prepare for the shutdown,” said Thorstenson, noting that he was speaking from the perspective of being an elementary principal last spring.

Whether school this fall is all distance learning or a combination of distance and in-school learning, teachers and administrators hope to improve on the groundwork laid in the spring, Thorstenson said.

At an initial W-A-O School District planning meeting this week, attendees plan to talk about how education will be delivered safely, about transportation and food service, Thorstenson said.

Until Walz makes his announcement,the discussion will be largely hypothetical.


“We’re going to have to figure out the school year with the governor’s guidance,” Thorstenson said.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
What To Read Next
Get Local