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WDC relies on sense of hope, fighting spirit

Photo by Dana Pavek, WDC Schools Wadena-Deer Creek School custodian Mel Pulju (left) and Elementary Head Custodian Kevin LaBarre hang up a banner on the school's front entrance wall to let the community know that Wadena-Deer Creek Schools will start school on Sept. 7. The school is in the process of finalizing locations for the 7-12 grade students.

Wadena-Deer Creek Schools' mascot is the Wolverine -- a ferocious, small animal known for its tenacity and fighting spirit. Wolverines are remarkably strong and oftentimes, in adversity, will take on an animal much larger than themselves.

Adopting the Wolverine spirit, WDC school staff is not letting the powerful June 17 tornadoes that ripped through their high school, school grounds and bus garage get the best of them.

"We are moving forward, with hope, excitement and strength," said WDC School Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom. "Whether we rebuild or remodel, our school is strong. We want to assure our parents we will be here, to provide students a high-quality education taught by teachers they know."

Dahlstrom has been working tirelessly with the school's insurance company; city, county and state officials; community leaders; and her school staff to come up with ways to move forward after the devastation. Not surprising to those who know Dahlstrom and her commitment to the school district, her philosophy has not changed due to an EF4 tornado. She still believes it's about WDC students receiving the very best education possible.

Build or remodel?

A final report from the school's insurance company was due this week on whether WDC will build a new school or fix the current structure. In the meantime, Superintendent Dahlstrom and school staff are securing space to accommodate high school students for the upcoming 2010-11 school year.

At this time no final decision has been made for middle level placement or preschool. However, the grade 7 and 8 options include the Deer Creek School facility and preschool may relocate to St. Ann's one-story classrooms. There has been considerable progress coordinating with M-State for grades 9-12.

This new arrangement will ensure all students will remain within the communities of Wadena, Deer Creek and Bluffton. Administrators, principals, staff and bus drivers all agree that providing a positive learning environment is key to the school's success.

"Wadena-Deer Creek School will be stronger, healthier and better through all of this. I truly believe that," Dahlstrom said. "We have great kids, great teachers and great staff. Our school is a community of educators and staff who genuinely care about our kids."

Calming anxieties, building hope

To build on Dahlstrom's sense of togetherness as an education family, a WDC Info Rally was held on July 1 at Wadena Memorial Auditorium for grades 7-12 students. School administrators and staff were on hand to answer questions and concerns from students about the future of WDC Schools.

And finally, removal of some instructional materials and band instruments from the high school began on June 30. Insurance and safety officials began the process of removing instructional items from the high school's safe zones.

While the WDC High School may be damaged, the storm did not break the school's Wolverine spirit. It's alive and well at Wadena-Deer Creek Schools. The "Wolverines" will claw their way forward with hope and faith in the future. That's the tenacity of the Wolverine spirit.