SARTELL -- While the anticipation of winter break grows, Sartell Superintendent Jeff Ridlehoover says students are still excited about being in school.

Ridlehoover says he's proud of the hard work students, teachers and support staff have put in over the first few months of the school year.

Earlier this month, the school board approved extending winter break by a day. Ridlehoover says there were a few factors that played into that decision.

We thought we needed to a little something to give our teachers time. Our teachers will still come in during that extra day off for students and be able to catch up on the things they haven't been able to accomplish due to having to help out in other classrooms.

Ridlehoover says staffing shortages continue to be an issue for all school districts. He says they recently approved a temporary pay increase for substitutes for the remainder of the school year.

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The increase of social media threats has area school districts on high alert. The Sauk Rapids-Rice and Rocori school districts recently had threats made against their schools, with the suspects identified.

Then Thursday authorities learned of a TikTok video threatening every school district in the country. Ridlehoover says these are serious situations and student safety is their number one priority.

If and when we have a situation where students are presenting a threat to our schools, it will be dealt with swiftly. We're not messing around and it's important for students to know there are consequences for these behaviors. Keeping students safe is our job and we take it seriously.

Ridlehoover says when threats arise, they take every precaution including alerting parents of the situation and working with law enforcement to provide an added presence at all of their buildings.

The school board has also had preliminary discussions about modifying their current plan, however since those discussions the district has seen an increase in COVID positive cases.

Ridlehoover says he doesn't expect those conversations to end though, especially with the vaccine available to younger students.

Some of those conversations may start with after school activities and lead into the normal school day. I do anticipate if we see those numbers going down again, and the availability of the vaccine to our younger learnings, that our school board will take up those conversations again.

Ridlehoover says as for their Educational Equity and Student Experience Committee, the group will reconvene on January 10th to further address the key topics they have narrowed down over the last several months.

He says they still want the community to be involved in the process so all the notes and feedback they have collected can be found on their district's website for community members to review at their convenience.


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