Owatonna Schools Superintendent Jeff Elstad hosted a virtual "Coffee and Conversation" meeting Friday morning. He presented an update on end-of-the-year protocol and provided reports on several topics. A cupful of people representing the public, media, and schools sat-in on the meeting .

He announced that Owatonna High School will have a parking lot commencement on Sunday, June 7 at 2pm at the Federated Insurance Annexstad Building on the south side of town. Students will stay in their cars in the west parking lot as their names are read. That morning students can stop at several spots around town for some photo ops and refreshments. Elstad says the district got the blessing of state and local health officials for the plan.

Elstad said he was proud of the students and staff for coming together to prepare for and execute distance learning, comparing it to building a plane while in the air. He said a survey of parents of K - 8 students found 90 percent approved of the way the district handled things.

He emphasized that relationships had already been built between teachers and students through the in-person part of the school year that had already been completed. Elstad said the final day for new lessons will be Friday, May 22. He said it takes a few days for work to get completed and turned in.

Elstad reported that the district has distributed approximately 140,000 free meals to students during the distance learning time. He said child care has been provided for about 30 students of essential workers.

Regarding an update on the progress of the new high school, Elstad said the initial design release will take place during a school board meeting June 8. Bid packages will go out in November with a ground breaking targeted for spring 2021. The building should be complete by spring 2023 with occupancy that fall.

Elstad added that he plans to present a 'state of the schools' address in the fall and plans for that to be an annual event.