Minnesota Revenue offers two valuable tax benefits for parents who purchase school supplies for their K-12 students, the K-12 Education Credit and Subtraction. These benefits can reduce parents’ taxes to increase their refund, but is only available for those who keep their receipts. Purchases for most school supplies, field trips, and musical instruments for school band are eligible.

Most Minnesota parents qualify for the K-12 subtraction, which reduces their taxable income. Parents under certain income limits may also qualify for the K-12 credit, which can refund up to 75% of their costs – even for parents who don’t owe any taxes. Visit the Minnesota Revenue website for details.

  • Please Take Advantage of the Meals! Did you know that on October 9, 2020, the US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the USDA is extending the free meals waiver? This allows schools to continue to ...
    Posted Nov 25, 2020, 10:56 AM by Brenda Williams
  • Finding Positivity at PLMS Amongst All of the Distractions It’s tough to turn on a radio, watch TV, or open a news feed without having to navigate through pandemic updates and/or the latest negative campaign propaganda; so ...
    Posted Nov 11, 2020, 6:35 AM by Brenda Williams
  • Back to Basics It isn’t hard to look around right now and see a crazy world. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic that just won’t go away, the trickle-down ...
    Posted Oct 28, 2020, 1:18 PM by Brenda Williams
  • Uphill Both Ways? Many older adults recall their school learning experience. Desks lined up in rows, teacher at the front talking to the class, turning pages in the textbook to find an answer ...
    Posted Oct 12, 2020, 2:42 PM by Brenda Williams
  • Get Excited for the Patriots! The Patriots have given us much to be excited about this fall! In August, the MSHSL decided to push volleyball and football to a spring sports season which gave those ...
    Posted Oct 12, 2020, 2:40 PM by Brenda Williams
Showing posts 1 - 5 of 126. View more »

Please Take Advantage of the Meals!

posted Nov 25, 2020, 10:56 AM by Brenda Williams

Did you know that on October 9, 2020, the US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the USDA is extending the free meals waiver? This allows schools to continue to provide all registered children and their siblings under age 18 in our school district free breakfast and free lunch on scheduled school days for the entire 2020-21 school year.

What does this mean during distance learning? For the Pequot Lakes School District it means meals are available for pick up on Monday mornings and early evenings. A pack of five breakfasts and five lunches is put together for each child and made available for pick up. Pick-ups are available on Mondays at Eagle View Elementary and at the Middle School/High School from 8-9 am and from 4-5 pm. There is also a pick-up point at Reed’s Market in Crosslake on Monday mornings from 9-10 am.

It’s really simple to sign up! Call or email Patty Buell, Food Service Director, at 218.568.9363 or pbuell@isd186.org and she will add your name to the list. You will need to provide your name, contact information, number of children and where and when you will pick up.

This program is funded by the USDA and the State of Minnesota. For every meal that gets picked up, our school district receives funding. The more meals the more funding. We started off sending out almost 1200 breakfasts and 1200 lunches and as of this writing, the list has grown to over 1500 of each!

Please take advantage of these meals. You are NOT taking away this benefit from someone else if you participate. These free meals can help you manage your household budget with the skyrocketing costs of groceries, and they are time saving and convenient, allowing those children at home to be more independent. This program is also keeping some of our food service staff employed. We did have to partially furlough most of the foodservice staff, so more meals also mean more hours for them!

Please Note: December 1st is the deadline for families to turn in an application for free or reduced price meals. Due to the current free meals program for all students, many families have not submitted their application which greatly reduces the revenue the school district receives in the year ahead. Please turn in your application to Patty Buell (pbuell@isd186.org) before the end of the month. An application can be downloaded from the school district food service website or picked up in the district office. 

Patty Buell, Food Service Director







Finding Positivity at PLMS Amongst All of the Distractions

posted Nov 11, 2020, 6:34 AM by Brenda Williams   [ updated Nov 11, 2020, 6:35 AM ]

It’s tough to turn on a radio, watch TV, or open a news feed without having to navigate through pandemic updates and/or the latest negative campaign propaganda; so I am going to take an opportunity to shut out all the noise and focus on some positive updates from the world of Pequot Lakes Middle School.

As October came to a close, we are proud to announce that over 500 students in grades 5-8 were able to participate in a “Relationship Retreat” to Trout Lake Camp in rural Pine River. Designed to enhance the relationship-building experience that we know is critical to student success, we built this trip to bring our students and staff closer together as early as possible this school year. Participants engaged in trust and team building activities amongst the beautiful backdrop of Big Trout Lake and the Fall colors. From 10-person voyageur canoeing to zip lines and high ropes, our students and staff reported having an amazing experience across all four grade levels. Even our transportation department was able to partake in the fun, as Bruce, our loyal bus driver, was able to take a ride on the zip-line as the students cheered him on. We want to extend a special thank you to James Rock and the Trout Lake crew for opening up this opportunity for our students, and to our PLMS families for trusting that we could provide a safe and exciting experience for our students despite all the restrictions.

Along the lines of relationships, we have found that homerooms have proven to be a critical part of providing a positive experience for our PLMS students. As part of our safety protocol and pre-fall planning process, students were placed in learning groups we call “homeroom pods”. In this setting, students spend the majority of their day learning in a singular space while their teachers travel from room to room delivering their content.

As we started the school year our leadership teams were apprehensive about our students and how they might respond to a departure from our norm. We feared that the pod model, with kids: not being able to stretch their legs, missing out on socializing with their peers during passing time, and a general inability to allow “kids to be kids” might not be the most conducive environment for our middle schoolers. Though we do miss the hallways teeming with energy, we have also found that the removal of some of these elements of the school day has actually allowed some of our students to flourish! Many students are citing less bullying and a marked drop in social pressure. They are also noticing an increased sense of community within their learning environments. Kids are making friends and forming new relationships courtesy of time together. This outcome has certainly been a positive surprise for our middle school team.

As I type my draft for this article, I am also recognizing that our campus community has been hit hard by quarantine. As the busses left campus today, I was faced with the unsettling reality that we are uncertain about when they will return to in-person opportunities. Be assured that PLMS will work hard to continue to provide a safe space for our learners and staff, which includes a continued commitment to learning in-person in grades 5 and 6 and an aspiration to have our 7th and 8th graders learning back on campus as soon as we can get our COVID quarantine numbers in check.

Though we cannot say that we hit our mark with all of our efforts thus far this year, we wanted to highlight several things that have been going incredibly well. I want to take this opportunity to publicly thank our families for continuing to trust us during this challenging school year and to our students and PLMS staff for providing us with some success stories to highlight to our community members. We’re hoping this article helps our readers to find some positivity amongst the distractions. 

-- Mike O'Neil, Middle School Principal   

Back to Basics

posted Oct 28, 2020, 1:18 PM by Brenda Williams

It isn’t hard to look around right now and see a crazy world. In the midst of a worldwide pandemic that just won’t go away, the trickle-down effect is in full swing. The mask or no mask debate has divided lifelong friends. The variables created in an educational setting have created many situations without win-win solutions. Thrown on top of all of this is as volatile of an election year as we’ve ever seen. As the challenges keep mounting, I urge you to consider taking your life back to the basics.

It wasn’t long ago that life was really lived day to day. It wasn’t about having lots of stuff or getting ahead. It wasn’t about setting goals for this week, this month, the next five years, etc. It wasn’t about planning for life 10-15-30 years down the road. It was about embracing the day, making the most of it, and going to sleep knowing you get to do it all over again the next day.

Don’t get me wrong. Planning for the future, setting goals, and hoping to improve your life is not a bad plan. These hopes are smart, noble, and reasonable things.   In our current situation, however, they can bring extra stress, lots of doubt, and the inability to see these goals in a positive light. According to a CDC study between June 24th and June 30th of this year, in a survey of 5,412 adults in the United States, 40% had experienced a mental or behavioral health condition. These numbers are difficult to process just in the here and now, without worrying about the future.

I encourage you to get back to the basics of your life. I encourage you to appreciate what you have and what you can control without getting caught up in the things you can’t. As a dad and a husband, I have three amazing children and a wife in my home that I’ve grown closer to during this pandemic because, frankly, we have been “stuck” with each other more. I’ve appreciated simple days that don’t involve racing from this kids’ activity to the next and, instead, noticed a falling leaf, a gentle breeze, and a chirping bird. Don’t get me wrong. I love being involved in my children’s activities and watching them; however, I’ve found some beauty in having less of that.

Each and every day we get to make a decision of what our attitude will be and where we will put our energy and effort. I challenge you to make a conscious choice with your day and see what reward you can find by channeling that to the basics of your life.

-- Rich Spiczka, Community Education Director

Uphill Both Ways?

posted Oct 12, 2020, 2:42 PM by Brenda Williams

Many older adults recall their school learning experience. Desks lined up in rows, teacher at the front talking to the class, turning pages in the textbook to find an answer, and taking the test to see if you would pass. The expectations for students were clear (get to school, follow the rules, get a passing grade and graduate) and the consequences for non-compliance severe (and worse when you got home). There was little technology available, teachers were the authority on content, and access to options other than the local public school were limited to a correspondence course. Those of you who can share in this nostalgia would find the schools of today a very foreign experience.

Personalized Learning is a buzzword in education, a concept of learning that identifies what students need to know, helps them develop a plan for how they will master the content, and in a manner that fits their learning style. Schools have been trending towards this concept in recent years as technology and mobility have created a competitive market in education. In years past, the teacher in the room had access to information and training that students relied on to learn the content. The teacher was a master of skill and content, leading the pupil. Students learned in a manner and pace dictated by the classroom teacher.

Today, the world is literally at the fingertips of kids with access to knowledge that exceeds human capacity. Need to know how many beats per minute of the average resting heart rate or the height of the Eiffel Tower? Google it. Free learning content floods the web and kids with an interest in learning can gain infinite information with little effort. The role of the teacher has changed with the growth of technology. No longer a master of knowledge upon whom students necessarily rely, the teacher is now relegated to the role of guiding students through the sea of endless information to develop the ability to filter, assess, and construct meaning from the information they gather.

Private schools, charter schools, online schools, and colleges have developed attractive options for students that cater to their desire to tailor their education to their own interests, save money in college, or complete school in a manner that fits their lifestyle. This competitive influence has pushed public education to adapt from a one size fits all approach, to one that employs technology and innovation to personalize the learning experience of students.

Some school systems allow students to complete courses at their own pace, access school year round, design learning paths unique to their career interests, and partner with employers to develop scholarship programs that blend secondary learning with degree programs that fast track students to career opportunities. High school is looking less like the place romanticized in yearbooks, full of memories of high school dances and glee club, and more like a junior college designed to transition students to career opportunities or post-secondary education.

This fall PLHS introduced online learning, distance learning, flexible scheduling, and new technology not just in response to COVID mandates, but in an effort to take a leap forward on the path of innovation to position ourselves in a place that allows students to access the advantages of a more personalized learning experience while being part of a great learning community. 2019 feels decades old as you watch students engage with school this fall. The challenges and limitations of COVID learning will be present for some time, but out of this experience will come a more efficient system of learning that adapts to students' needs.

Many of us celebrate the great memories shared with high school friends or gloat over our former selves and our recollections of high school glory. But, we can also remember the wasted hours, the uninspiring lectures on abstract subjects, the endless worksheets and bubble tests. At Pequot Lakes High School, we are focused on highly effective instructional approaches that require students to apply their learning in practical real-world situations. Fading are the activities focused on compliance and rote memory, instead we focus on practical skills, collaboration, reflective learning, development of processes, and mindsets that shape our thinking. We still cherish the opportunity for great memories experienced within the halls of Ol’ PLHS, we are just shifting our academic focus to measurable outcomes for graduates that match the needs of today’s workforce.

School does not look the same, feel the same, or function the same as it did 1 year ago and it certainly bears no resemblance to school from 30 years ago. However, the goal is the same and those leading children through the learning process are just as skilled in helping students find their potential to a successful path in life.

-- Aaron Nelson, High School Principal

Get Excited for the Patriots!

posted Oct 12, 2020, 2:40 PM by Brenda Williams

The Patriots have given us much to be excited about this fall! In August, the MSHSL decided to push volleyball and football to a spring sports season which gave those students the opportunity to participate in cross country or tennis this fall. Because of this, our teams have seen an increase in the number of those participating in these fall sports, with several athletes taking advantage of the ability to participate in another sport this season and possibly compete as a four-sport athlete this school year. The added team members have created more competitive teams. I am so impressed with those willing to take on that opportunity.

Girls tennis has 31 Patriots taking the courts, with another 30 in middle level. With such booming numbers, we needed to add another coach to help with our program. As of this writing, the girls are undefeated with a record of 8-0 with two events remaining. Tennis will be able to compete in sections starting October 5 and concluding on October 17.

Cross country has 43 boys and girls out with an additional 23 middle level athletes participating. They compete each week with a maximum of three teams per event. Boys and girls teams are very competitive and have won most of their meets. They will finish their regular season in a conference event on October 6 and will compete against 23 other teams in section 7A.

Football and volleyball started on September 14 with what we thought was a three-week fall season practice. New adjustments have changed how their season will proceed. Football will start their official practice season on September 28 and, like the other fall sports, has a record number of students participating. They will compete in a six-game season with the first game on October 9. Decisions regarding a post-season tournament are still being determined. Games will allow a limited number of spectators but the games will be streamed on the district streaming website when possible so fans can watch.

Volleyball will also start their official season on September 28. They have their first match October 8 and will have 14 events this fall. Post-season details are yet to be determined. No fans are allowed to attend but we will stream the games on our district streaming website when possible. Families should keep in mind that if they feel safer transporting their child to and from an event, they should communicate clearly with their coaches and do so. This will help with transportation logistics as we must run buses at 50% capacity and have had to take extra busses for events. Students cannot drive themselves to events or be transported by anyone else other than their immediate family.

While starting up activities this fall has brought us great joy, it doesn't match the excitement of having students back in our buildings to learn each day. The students bring such energy, excitement and enthusiasm. We must all do our part to make sure our students can attend school in person. Most students have shared that they need to be in school for them to be successful. They need the structure and the help of our talented educators. It is critical that our students and community follow the guidelines set by the MN Department of Health. With so many schools in our area having to go to distance learning, we must be extra cautious with the guidelines and do everything we can to ensure we can stay in school. If we are forced to go to distance learning, all sports and activities will stop for the time period we are in that learning mode. Even worse, we wouldn’t be able to attend school in an in-person format. So please stay safe, stay diligent, let’s do this together and Go Patriots!

-- Byron Westrich, Activities Director

Kicking Off 2020-21 and a STEM Campus Remodeling Project

posted Sep 14, 2020, 8:42 AM by Brenda Williams

The 2020-21 school year has officially begun in Pequot Lakes Public Schools with k-6 students attending in person everyday and students in grades 7-12 attending in person two days each week and distance learning the other three days. The first few days of school have provided example after example of our Patriot students and families demonstrating wonderful grace, patience, and resilience! Our staff has worked incredibly hard over the summer to prepare for this fall so when the hallways lit up with student laughter, smiles, and comments about how great it was to be back, the sense of joy and relief among our Patriot staff was clearly visible - even through the masks! It is truly a joy to welcome students back into our schools after six long months without them. We’ve missed them a great deal.

Families with school-aged children are strongly encouraged to develop plans now for the possibility that we will need to shift to distance learning in the near future. The number of new cases in Crow Wing County has trended down recently, allowing our schools to move forward with some in-person learning, but that may change as we implement in-person learning and begin closing up windows and doors due to cooler weather. Even more likely to push us into distance learning is the possibility of having too many staff fall ill or being directed to self-quarantine. Our plans call for teachers that must quarantine but who are healthy enough to teach to do so from home, but this accommodation doesn’t work for staff that drive a bus, prepare meals, or work in our health offices. It also doesn’t work if we don’t have enough staff to supervise onsite. Eventually we may need to shift to distance learning for at least 14 days if too many students or staff test positive for COVID so everyone can self-quarantine and the buildings can be cleaned deeply. Our district began the 2020-21 school year with several staff members and district families in a 14 day quarantine period due to recent exposure to a confirmed COVID case, and we predict that pattern will continue on throughout the year. The unknown is which direction the numbers will trend.

An exciting 2020-21 project for Pequot Lakes Public Schools is the planned remodel of the former Echo building. The school board recently approved remodeling the building to be a STEM Campus, housing the Robotics, Engineering, and Construction programs, and the Pequot Lakes High School Construction Academy students will do a fair amount of the remodeling themselves! The district is grateful for the local support from ICS and Nor-Son who will work with our students to make the project a success. May we all work together to make the 2020-21 school year a great one! Go Patriots!

-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools

A Tight Financial Forecast

posted May 31, 2020, 10:00 PM by Brenda Williams

Given the current state of affairs across the state, nation and world, the forecast reports on business, government and personal finances appear grim. States, local governments and other public entities, including school districts, are consistently advised to maintain a fund balance sufficient to weather financial downturns. Governed by law or policy that sets a target fund balance and in some cases criteria about when and how the funds can be used, the amount of maintained fund balance determines the ability of the entity to ride out the financial storm. If there ever was a time to be in a financially responsible position with the capability to weather a storm, that time is now.

The Government Finance Officers Association, GFOA, has a “Best Practice” Statement regarding the appropriate level of unrestricted fund balance for governmental entities. The recommendation is to maintain an unrestricted fund balance in the general fund of no less than two months of regular general fund operating expenditures. Two months, or one-sixth of a year, equates to an unrestricted fund balance of 16.67%. Presented this metric, how is ISD 186 doing?

School board policy requires an unrestricted fund balance of at least 12% and the board’s consistent goal has been to maintain an unrestricted fund balance of 15%-17% which supports the two months of operating expenses recommended by the GFOA. Over the past five years, the general fund unrestricted fund balance ranged from a low of 12% in 2015 to a high of 18% in 2016. The last 3 years are consistent with an unrestricted fund balance of 16% and 2020 is tracking to end the year at 16%. If graded based on the GFOA’s benchmark of 16.67%, ISD 186 is getting an “A” due to enrollment growth and the board’s excellent planning, decision making, and discipline.

Financial forecasts are certainly looking ugly; however, our district will weather the storm better than many districts. Belts will need to tighten, some fund balances will need to be spent down, and some reductions may not be avoidable in future years. That said, we are better prepared than most districts to cushion the blows, and we will step through these times with the same discipline and focus on our mission that we’ve demonstrated for many years. We are after all, the Patriots!

-- Heidi Hagen, Business Manager

Celebrating our 2020 Patriot Seniors and A Challenge to Define the Culture

posted May 18, 2020, 5:19 PM by Brenda Williams

The class of 2020 has been dealt a hand of cards that includes the loss of many important milestone events that typically take place in the final months of a student’s senior year in high school. They’ve been dealt a bad hand. There’s no way to hide or sugarcoat that reality, and we’re so sorry for our students that have had to work through being a senior during a global pandemic. Staff, administrators, community members and parents have all worked hard to try and make lemonade out of this big lemon, and there have been some great moments to cherish no doubt, but it would be wrong to say we have a nice glass of lemonade… Patriot seniors, it is very much ok and understandable to feel angry, to feel grief, and to carry disappointment. Please know that we - your Patriot family - stand with you in this emotional time, and we will keep standing together as all good families do. We celebrate the many ways you’ve made a positive impact on our lives, and we look forward to seeing the impact you are certain to make as you step into the world as a Patriot alumni.

Patriot community, last August I included an article in the school district newsletter called “Please Join Us in Creating A Safe and Supportive Culture for Every Student” that included the following challenge: Learning to value the opinions of those we disagree with is a learned behavior, and I’m calling upon our community to serve as a model for our students to learn from, as it certainly is not being modeled at other levels of government. Would you please join us in helping our students learn what honorable and compassionate civic engagement looks like? And would you please join us in helping to make sure every student feels safe and supported while in our schools? It is definitely a responsibility we all hold together. I am resharing this challenge in a time when the tone of public discourse is more divisive, destructive, biased, misinformed, and disheartening than ever before in my memory. Times of crisis throughout world history have sharpened our view of what lies in the hearts of those around us and this crisis is no different. What are we modeling for our students in social media, in conversations, and by what we are choosing to watch on television? The eyes of children are always on us, and they are learning from what we adults choose to read, say, and listen to. Author Dr. David Walsh said, “Those that tell the story define the culture.” Are we telling the story for our children or is it the for-profit news media, social media, or those with biased and misinformed opinions? My hope is that we adults are intentionally defining the culture by telling the stories of compassion, respect, grace, team work, resilience, and love. May we be a community that models an American spirit of collaboration, respect, community, care for others and grace.

Patriot seniors, thank you for blessing us with so many years of great memories and for making our schools a better place to be. Thank you for continuing to raise the bar and for challenging us to keep improving and innovating. And now, “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine upon your face. And rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.” - Irish Blessing

-- Chris Lindholm, Superintendent of Schools

Finding the Silver Lining

posted May 1, 2020, 1:21 PM by Brenda Williams

There is no disputing this COVID-19 scenario has created a bunch of negatives in our lives. It seems that the simple days of doing what you want, with whom you want, are a distant memory. We don’t gather for church, take road trips to sporting events, buy tickets to concerts or even hug anymore. Of course this isn’t because we don’t want to, but because we have to in order to be a good citizen, take care of our neighbor and protect those we care about. It isn’t all bad, though.

There is a silver lining in today’s hysteria, many silver linings actually. For many people in my age bracket, there is no time to stop and chat during “normal” life. There are constant schedules, events, activities, obligations, etc. This isn’t true just for the folks with kids in school, but true for many of us. We fill our lives with activities and things to do. Yes, some of those aren’t available right now, but so many other pure ones are, those that we may have ignored for a while.

When you take a walk now, do you really appreciate that walk or embrace what you see and hear? I know I do, much more so than I did before. When you talk to family and friends, are you more invested? Are you less distracted and paying more attention? I know I am. Our family has taken time to write cards to family we can’t spend time with. We’ve sat around the kitchen table for hours doing puzzles. We’ve spent time together doing homework. If we were in “regular” life, we may not have done those things or for as long. We all sit around the table and eat together, often. A simple drive around the countryside is something we all look forward to.

There is no doubt that our world is different. It can be debated if it is forever changed, but I’m not sure any of us know for certain. What I do know is the silver lining we can all embrace if we just grasp it, is appreciation. An appreciation for normal. An appreciation for all of those doing jobs we may have never noticed before like stocking store shelves. We can appreciate how lucky we are to have family and friends in our lives or cherish how much the memories of those passed on mean.

You can find the quote most anywhere, but it reads, “Enjoy the little things in life, as one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.” I’m not sure most of us can hear that enough. It is true, that the current state of our world is challenging, but instead of looking outward to all the negativity, I challenge you to look inward and appreciate all you have. Find a way to notice the “silver linings” and appreciate each and every one of them.

-- Rich Spiczka, Community Education Director

Breaking Down the High Reliability Schools Framework: Level Three--Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum

posted Apr 16, 2020, 7:49 PM by Brenda Williams

This is part three in a three-part series focusing on levels 1-3 of the High Reliability Schools Framework. Part one of this series focused on Level 1: Safe, Supportive and Collaborative Culture. Part two focused on Level 2: Effective Teaching in Every Classroom and the focus of today’s writing is Level 3: Guaranteed and Viable Curriculum.

In his book, What Works in Schools, Robert Marzano states that “A guaranteed and viable curriculum is the number one factor impacting student achievement.” (Marzano, 2003). That is a lofty claim, but one that makes complete sense when you understand the meaning of the terms guaranteed and viable.

A guaranteed curriculum assures us that specific content is taught in specific courses and at specific grade levels, regardless of the teacher to whom a student is assigned. The fact that it is viable indicates that there is enough instructional time available to actually teach the content identified as important (Marzano and Dufour, Leaders of Learning, 2011).

At Pequot Lakes Schools we have been working hard this year to ensure that we have a guaranteed curriculum for all learners. The importance of this became increasingly clear as we entered into distance learning. With students across the district engaging in learning from home, it is important that all students in a grade level or in a specific course receive the same content. The only way to guarantee this is to make sure that teachers have reviewed the standards, aligned the curriculum and have created units of instruction that are consistently taught by all teachers within a grade level or course. The curriculum must also be viable under the time constraints imposed by our current reality.

We are fortunate in the Pequot Lakes School District to have a school board, superintendent, building administrators, teachers and support staff who are committed not only to providing a guaranteed and viable curriculum, but also to ensuring that our schools meet the goals set forth in the High Reliability Schools framework.

-- Michele Zeidler, Eagle View Elementary HRS Coach

1-10 of 126