Minnesota Governor Tim Walz Visits Albert Lea High School

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ALHS Principal Mark Grossklaus and Superintendent Mike Funk show Minnesota Governor Tim Walz the thermal scanners inside of the building. The scanners were installed as a safety precaution that was taken in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the students and staff. “Our hope is that what’s happened here is happening across the state,” Walz said. “You’ve got a really good, robust system put in place that keeps you safe.”

On Sept. 16, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz visited Albert Lea High School to talk to students and staff about how the school year has been going so far during the pandemic. 

“We’re here (for) several reasons,” Walz said. “For me to get on the ground, take a look at what’s being implemented but, much more importantly, as I said, to provide a thank you to the administration.” 

Walz was shown around the Albert Lea High School campus by Superintendent Mike Funk and Principal Mark Grossklaus along with several school board members. Students from Therese Netzer’s AP Language and Composition class were spending the class period outside and had an opportunity to speak with Walz. He expressed his gratitude towards the students for their perseverance during a challenging time and provided them with hope for a brighter future. 

“If we get this right, you can walk across the stage next spring without masks,” Walz said to a small group of seniors. “If we get this thing right, put an end to it and move on.” 

Walz also voiced his concern about the safety of the teachers, noting that they are at a higher risk than the teenage students. Netzer was quick to reassure him that the students have been acting in a responsible manner and doing their part to keep themselves and the people around them safe. 

“I think they get it and appreciate it,” Netzer said. “We talk too about how if you want to be in school, this is what we have to do. Kids want to be in school.” 

After speaking with the students, Grossklaus and Funk brought Walz inside of the school to view the thermal scanners that had been installed near two of the entrances. Grossklaus explained that Walz was the first visitor to be allowed inside of the school, and Walz commended the school’s decision to limit the number of people entering the building. 

“In most cases, and we even saw this in things like long-term care facilities, the transmission wasn’t in the building,” Walz said. “It was outside of the building and then brought in by someone, either a visitor or staff. That’s where you have to contain.” 

While Walz was inside of the building, physical education teacher Bethany Tennis brought her class over to meet with and talk to him. Tennis also praised ALHS for the security and safe environment that has been created in the wake of the pandemic. 

“It’s different, and every class is going to have those challenges,” Tennis said. “But I think we have a system in place that allows us to do the best thing possible for our students.” 

Walz also empathized with the students in regards to the emotions surrounding the virus. 

“If you’re sick of this, and you’re tired of COVID, and you just wish this would end, I’m right with you,” he said. “All of us are there, but if we do this right, we get it done sooner.” 

Walz also explained that the goal for each community is to keep transmission rates low, ideally below 5%. He believes that doing so will be beneficial to not only businesses and the everyday lives of the population, but also for the students who wish to attend school. 

“Keeping transmission numbers low keeps these kids in school,” Walz said. “That social-emotional part of being in school, I say that as a teacher, I say that as a parent and certainly as governor, we know is critically important.” 

The governor had nothing but kind and grateful words in regards to the work done by Funk, Grossklaus, the school board, the staff and students.

“They have executed the plan, the safe school reopenings, and put their own stamp on it here in Albert Lea,” Walz said.