Community Partnership is Key to Schools Reopening

, , , , , , , ,

Six months have passed since area students sat down for classes inside their schools. The COVID-19 pandemic left communities and school districts scrambling to plan ways to provide education. Next week, students will be returning to the classroom with new plans in place. Community partnership is key to area schools reopening.

Area school districts like Wadena-Deer Creek have developed a partnership with Tri-County Health Care and Sourcewell to provide a safe and effective learning experience. Parents and the community will have significant roles to play in keeping kids in school moving forward.

COVID-19 Tri-County Health Care germs

What will school look like this year?

Staff at schools are excited to get students back in the building this year. The Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education have guided several changes to procedures for the upcoming school year. Tri-County Health Care also offered a team of professionals, including providers, to review the plan and provide recommendations on key components. The goal is to have students back in school as much as possible. However, it is likely that there will be a shift in learning formats depending on COVID-19 cases in the community.

Changes at Wadena-Deer Creek:

  • Cleaning protocols: There are new daily and weekly cleaning procedures within the schools. Additional custodial staff will be cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces throughout the day.
  • Student screening: Parents need to check temperatures and look for any COVID-19 symptoms before sending their children to school. Even if there is a slight fever, school districts recommend keeping children at home. Schools expect a higher than average absence rate and will work with parents.
  • Social distancing: Students will be socially distanced to the extent possible when they are in school. There will also be different procedures when coming to and from school. This year will have designated drop zones and entrances for staff and different age groups of students. Lunchtime will also look different – there will be no self-serve option and instead, food will be put together for students. 
  • Face masks requirement: The best way to keep everyone as safe as possible inside the classroom is to wear face masks. Students are allowed to take masks off when eating and drinking, in physical education class and outside while social distancing. Teachers are encouraged to take students outside to give them a chance to take masks off and get fresh air.
  • Hand hygiene: There will be regular handwashing with soap plus hand sanitizer in each classroom.
  • Air circulation: The advanced HVAC system will provide increased circulation of fresh air in the buildings.
  • Limiting bus capacity: Buses will run at 50 percent capacity. Wadena-Deer Creek appreciates families that stepped up and volunteered to bring their kids to and from school to help achieve this mitigation effort.

The importance of wearing a mask

Wearing face masks is the most crucial component in keeping students safe. It will be mandatory and a key to allowing students to continue in-person learning. Wadena-Deer Creek encourages families to teach children the importance of wearing a mask. Additionally, children should practice wearing them before the school year begins.

“It’s really important for our parents to be partners with the school on this. We need our parents to talk to their kids about wearing masks,” said Wadena-Deer Creek Superintendent Lee Westrum. “We’ll do our part at the school. Our teachers do a great job of educating our kids and this topic will be no different. We will be front and center in working with our kids to drive home the importance of masks.”

The highest risk situation for spreading the virus is large indoor gatherings. In-person learning falls under this category. There have been health concerns about wearing masks and Tri-County Health Care’s Chief Medical Officer, Ben Hess, M.D., assures parents they are safe for children.

“Masks can be stuffy, uncomfortable and take time to get used to,” Dr. Hess said. “But I want to stress to parents that masks are very safe. There are very few, if any, medical exceptions that will affect their ability to breathe well.”

Community mitigation efforts are crucial

The importance of community partnership in mitigation efforts like social distancing, wearing a mask and hand hygiene remains key for schools reopening. Everyone agrees in-person learning is the best way for students to receive their education.

This year, there will be state mandates where schools must transition away from in-person learning if the number of COVID-19 positive tests in the county increases. The model is based on positive tests per 10,000 people in a two-week period.

Wadena County has remained within the range for in-person learning but has seen an uptick of positive cases in the last two weeks. On August 17, the county had 30 positive cases. That number went up to 49 over the next two weeks.

COVID-19 Tri-County Health Care germs

For students to remain in school and not move to a hybrid in-person/online or fully online curriculum, it is critical for the community to keep positive cases low. A partnership from the community to practice mitigation efforts will be key to allowing the reopening of schools.

“We’re all concerned that if we don’t follow these rules when kids are back in school, we will see the virus quickly spread through the community,” Dr. Hess said. “We will be watching that closely and doing what we can to help the schools.”

Helpful links to learn more about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

Tri-County Health Care

Wadena-Deer Creek Schools


Minnesota Department of Health

Minnesota Department of Education

The perfect fit: choosing the right backpack for your child

, , ,

Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes. When choosing a backpack, your child might run straight for the one that has the coolest colors or the best superheroes emblazoned on the front. But the American Occupational Therapy Association says parents and children should consider more than just aesthetics for this important school-time staple.Children with backpacks sitting in the park near school.

“You want to choose a backpack that fits well and is the right size for your child,” said Linda Trosdahl, occupational therapist at Tri-County Health Care. “A backpack that is too heavy or that fits improperly can cause health problems such as back and shoulder pain, tingling in the arms, fatigue, weak muscles and stooped posture.”

Here’s what you should look for in a backpack:

Size: It should not be too large or too small for your child. In general, it should start approximately 2 inches below the shoulder blades and extend to slightly above the hips.

Straps: Your neck and shoulders have many nerves and blood vessels, so generously padded straps promote comfort and improve balance when the backpack is full. Make sure they are adjustable as well.

Smiling girl with backpackHip belt. If you can, choose a backpack that includes hip or chest belts, which lessen the strain on the neck and shoulders.

Fit: Just like when you shop for clothes, it’s important to let your child try on the backpack. This lets you see exactly how it fits.


Now that you’ve selected a backpack, make sure your child is wearing it properly before they walk out the door on their first day of school.

“The way your child wears their backpack is just as important as finding a backpack that fits,” Trosdahl said. “If it isn’t adjusted properly or if they carry it by one strap a majority of the time, it could cause balance issues and strain their muscles.”

Follow these tips for carrying a backpack:

  • Don’t wear it slung over one shoulder. Use both straps. Otherwise, it could cause your child’s spine to curve and result in pain.One happy girl in foreground turns to look back before going to school.  The friends in background all wear backpacks and are excited about going back to school.
  • The backpack should rest snugly against your child’s back. This is where the adjustable straps come in handy. If it hangs loosely, it could pull them backward and cause muscle strain.
  • The bottom of the backpack should never extend farther than four inches below your child’s waist. It should rest in the curve of their lower back.
  • A backpack should weigh no more than about 10 percent of a child’s body weight. If it is too heavy, you should determine which supplies could stay at home or if the child could carry any. Another option is a backpack on wheels if the school allows them.
  • Heavy items should be loaded close to your child’s back to help with balance. You should also arrange the contents in a way that they won’t slide around inside the backpack.


Keep these tips in mind as you finish up back-to-school shopping in the coming weeks, and enjoy the rest of the summer!

Let’s talk lice: Q&A with a school nurse

, ,

By Guest Blogger Amy Yglesias, Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School Nurse

A four year old boy scratching his  itchy scalp from head lice

Let’s face it. Lice are gross, they’re inconvenient, and there’s a real possibility that your child could come home one day with a scalp infested with them.

But don’t worry! Aside from the “yuck!” factor, a case of lice isn’t all bad news. The symptoms are mild, and reliable treatment exists. You may even be able to ward them off.

Here are some quick tips and common questions to put your mind at ease:

What is the best way to prevent lice?

Lice are spread by head-to-head contact, so avoid touching your head to others. One way we do this all the time is for pictures. Be careful when taking those selfies with others! Also, do not share combs, brushes, hair ties, helmets or hats with others. Lice DO NOT jump or fly to another person.

What are signs of lice to watch out for?

Parents should watch their children for itching of the head and neck.

What causes/attracts lice?

Lice have no preference over which head they land on, clean or dirty. They are attracted to our specific body temperature and humidity of the human scalp. Anybody can get lice.

Are lice harmful?

Lice do not carry disease and do not pose a significant health risk.

If your child’s classmate has lice, what should you do?

Check your child’s hair frequently. Remind your child to avoid head-to-head contact. The smell of tea tree oil has been known to repel lice. Put a couple drops in hair detangler or a water bottle and spritz hair. Also, lice do not like the smell of coconut. There are over-the-counter preventive items you can buy.Mother using a comb in child's hair to look for head lice

What should parents do if they find out their child has lice?

Do not freak out. It will be OK.

Check all family members/people that live in your house. Treat everyone who has lice all at the same time.

Decide which treatment you will use. There are prescription, over the counter and natural treatments. Some people chose to go to a lice clinic to be treated. If needed, your doctor could help you decide which treatment is best for you. Click here for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention treatment guidelines.

Follow the product directions carefully. With most products, you will need to treat again in seven to 10 days. Removing the nits, or eggs, is an important part of the treatment of lice. Continue checking the head and combing hair daily for two weeks. If all nits within 1/4 inch of the scalp are not removed, some may hatch and your child will get lice again.

Wash clothing worn in the last three days, bedding and towels in hot water and dry in a hot dryer for at least 20 minutes before using again.

Stuffed animals, backpacks and other cloth items can be put in a plastic bag for two weeks. Vacuum carpets, upholstered furniture, mattresses and seats in the car thoroughly.

Is there anything else you think parents should know about lice?

If your child gets lice, it is not the end of the world and certainly nothing to be ashamed of. It can happen to any family.


family photo of the author of the blog story with her family.

Amy and her family.

About the Author: Amy Yglesias is the school nurse at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School. She has been a licensed practical nurse for 18 years and just started her fourth year at the school. Before that, she worked at the TCHC Wadena Clinic. Yglesias is married and has two daughters, a sixth grader and a third grader, and a spoiled mini schnauzer named Princess.

Help your child deal with stress at school

, ,

By Jill Wilkens, Physician Assistant


School in the tri-county area is almost back in session. As you prepare to send your children off to class, this might be a good time to take a step back to evaluate the school-year schedule. Is your Bored and fed boy up doing his homeworkchild in sports? Do they take part in after school activities? How much homework might their new teachers assign? Do they have good friends at school?

The answers to these questions can all impact your child’s resistance to stress.

Though stress is usually attributed to adults or teenagers, children are also susceptible to stress, especially during school. Anything from being overwhelmed with homework, to not understanding something, to experiencing problems with friends or classmates could trigger stress. Your child could also pick up on situations at home that could cause them stress.

Keep an eye out for the warning signs. Your child may become more irritable, act out or change their normal behavior. They may cry more easily.

Always be open and eager to listen to your children, and encourage them so that they are comfortable coming to you if they feel stressed. Make sure your child knows that you’re available to help, whether it’s with homework or with friend trouble.

Here are some other ways to help your child deal with stress:

  1. Make sure they keep to a routine, such as going to bed and waking up at the same time.
  2. Set aside time for homework each day.
  3. Schedule family time.
  4. Have playtime built into their everyday routine.

With the increase of homework and the added pressure of responsibilities earlier in a child’s life, playtime is beneficial. Sometimes kids just need to be kids. You could also use playtime to make learning more fun.Kids playing outside on a jungle gym during recess.

In general, I recommend that kids try to get at least 30-60 minutes of activity or exercise daily. This goes hand in hand with limiting screen time, which is important to enforce with children in this day and age.

Getting enough exercise works in tandem with getting enough sleep to keep children functioning at their best. During the school year, most children should get at least 10 hours of sleep at night, but depending on the child, that number can vary from nine to 12 hours.

Paying attention to the amount of sleep, physical activity and playtime that a child gets is key to keeping their stress levels low.

Have a great school year!



About the Author: Jill Wilkens is a physician assistant at the Tri-County Health Care Wadena Clinic. A native of Long Prairie, Jill previously worked at the New Ulm Medical Center and has been in Wadena since 2011. She and her husband, Shayne, have two children and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.


Tips for healthy back-to-school lunches

, , ,

By Shelby Hunke, Registered Dietitian


We’ve all heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But for growing children, all meals are important, especially when you want them to function at their best both physically and mentally at school. healthy lunch box example

While school food services provide nutritious meals for children, some like to pack their own lunch. If you have a picky eater or a child who chooses to have a “cold” lunch, here are some tips for healthy back-to-school lunches.


Put your kid in the chef’s role

Sit down with your child once per week and help them plan their lunches. They are more likely to eat food when they have a say in the choices.

Focus on the recommendations and include foods from each food group: milk, meats, grains and vegetables/fruits. It’s okay to include a small sweet or snack item.

Make a checklist or spreadsheet of foods your child is willing to eat from each food group.


Choose nutrient-dense foods

Even in small amounts, nutrient-dense foods have a lot of nutrition. Examples are whole-grain breads or wraps, colorful fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy such as yogurt, string cheese or low-fat milk.


Focus on “eye”-ppetizing foods

Kids and adults alike eat with our eyes first. Kids especially are attracted to colorful foods and fun packaging. Buy a lunch box, Tupperware and disposable silverware with their favorite character or color. Have fun with shapes and sizes by cutting out their sandwiches, fruit or vegetables with a cookie cutter.


School lunch box for kids. Cooking. Keep the food safe

If you are packing perishable food in your child’s lunch, remember to include an ice pack or two to reduce the risk of food poisoning.

It’s also important to invest in a well-insulated lunch box. Refrigeration is usually unavailable at school, so packing shelf-stable foods is important: trail mix, granola bars, bagels, baby carrots, whole fruit, dried fruit, single-serve applesauce or whole grain crackers.


Prevent boredom

Some kids could eat the same lunch for two weeks straight, while others get bored and need some variety. To help ensure their lunch doesn’t go to waste, try these strategies:

Celebrate special days: Plan a lunch menu around a special date or event. For example, pack an all-red lunch on Valentine’s Day.

Pack extra: Use peer pressure to your advantage by packing extra “ants on a log” or hummus dip for your child to share with their friends.

Have trendy lunch supplies: Kids will be excited to eat their lunch when it’s packed in a “cool” lunch box or includes stickers on plastic baggies.


Pinwheel lunch recipes

All recipes should start with a whole-wheat wrap of choice. Roll and cut after assembly.

  • Turkey and apple: Base layer of mustard and/or mayo topped with grated cheddar cheese, turkey breast, apple slices and lettuce.
  • Hawaiian Pizza: Base layer of spaghetti or marinara sauce topped with grated mozzarella cheese, Canadian bacon and pineapple chunks.
  • Southwestern: Base layer of cream cheese topped with salsa, black beans, sliced black olives and strips of red bell pepper.
  • Veggie Lover: Base layer of hummus topped with mixture of vegetables, such as grated carrots, sliced cucumber, lettuce and pepper strips.
  • Turkey and Pesto: Base layer of pesto topped with turkey breast, cucumber slices and lettuce.


Sources: and


Shelby with her husband, Paul, and their children, Madison and Jackson.

About the Author: Shelby Hunke is a registered dietitian working at Tri-County Health Care in the hospital and clinic. She has a degree in exercise science and a passion for helping patients live a healthy lifestyle. She lives in Wadena with her husband, Paul, and two kids, Madison and Jackson. In her spare time, she enjoys family time, running with her dog, Bela, and cooking!