Why I Love This School: A Series of Posts on What Makes Nerstrand Special.

I will be leaving Nerstrand School at the end of this year.   Leaving and change make all of us reflect on the moments that brought us to this point.  I am fortunate enough that because I have taught for 33 years, I have reached something called Rule of 90.  This Rule, which has to do with my pension, is an important milestone for educators.  It allowed my husband and I to realize we had options in regards to our work and made us both look more closely at this next part of our lives.  The pandemic has made many of us think more deeply about what is important to us and of how precious and fleeting our time is on this planet.  I look forward to spending more time in my garden, traveling with my husband, subbing and doing meaningful work in whatever form that takes.  


Deciding to leave Nerstrand School has not been an easy decision, but I feel I am ready and that passing the torch to the next set of educators is a positive thing.  Of course leaving has also made me reflective about my time at Nerstrand School.  


Our staff and the many colleagues I have worked with is something I cherish.  I have made lifelong friends because of this school and have learned so much from the people that I have taught alongside of.  I am deeply appreciative of our teachers and paras.  Staff members come to our school because they want to be in this small setting, where everyone knows the children.  Teachers, just like families, have choices about where they can teach.  Our teachers are here because they feel connected to students and supported by all their colleagues.  They stay because they believe in the mission of our school.   They are creative, empathetic, loving, intelligent and dedicated to their work.  I have taught in a variety of settings and I know that Nerstrand goes the extra mile to make staff members feel connected and appreciated.  A current teacher told me that "a tough day at Nerstrand is better than my best day at a previous school”.  I know that our staff is dedicated to what our little school brings to students and that dedication doesn't evaporate when staff members leave.  As a member of the pioneering group that converted Nerstrand to a public charter school, we knew that the success and life of the school depended on a group of creative and determined educators and not just one or two people.  


Contracted professionals that work at our school, comment on the atmosphere within our staff and how welcome they feel coming to Nerstrand School.  We certainly have had our ups and downs but overall this is a good place to work.  That atmosphere and trust within our staff trickles down to our students and families.  It's hard to work in a place where people are unhappy.  We focus a lot of attention on the atmosphere of the school for our students, but that loving, family feeling that children and parents feel has to come from a place of truth and respect among colleagues.  It is something that our staff consciously works on, to ensure we support each other and can then support children and families.  


I speak for Barb Grote and myself, when I tell families that we are leaving this school that we love in good hands. I am thankful to the staff members that are currently working at Nerstrand.  A school is a living thing that changes over time.  Change is necessary in order to stay relevant.  It is the give and take between staff, families, children and community that makes a school successful.  


Thank you for all the good wishes from families and students.  I have heard many touching student comments about my leaving since my announcement.  Yesterday, a first grader told me that I need to be sure to let the next Director know that the first graders like to play Crazy 8's and Spot it during indoor recess (these are both card games in my cupboard).  It's on the top of my list to share with the next Director!





Schoolwide mask mandate effective Friday, 9/24

Dear Nerstrand Families,

At the August 30th Nerstrand Board of Directors Special meeting it was decided by vote that should Faribault School District move to a mask mandate, Nerstrand School would follow this mandate. At a special meeting on Monday, Sept. 20, the Faribault Public Schools board voted to approve that the district follow the Center for Disease Control's recommendation to require indoor masking in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under these new guidelines beginning Friday, September 24th, face coverings will be required for all students (5 and older) and staff at Nerstrand School until the Rice County COVID-19 case rate falls to below 50 cases per 100,000 residents. The current Rice County case rate is 261.

The following face coverings are acceptable: paper or disposable masks, cloth face mask, scarf, neck gaiter, bandana, and medical-grade masks and respirators. Those requesting a religious or medical exemption can contact the office via email: or

The CDC's masking recommendation is supported by Rice County Public Health and Mayo Clinic. Additionally, nearly 70 local doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants have endorsed indoor masking as a way to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

In addition to reviewing information provided by public health experts, the Faribault School Board and the Nerstrand ICT team has also monitored situations in other school districts without masking requirements where outbreaks forced large numbers of students to go into quarantine. By following the CDC's masking recommendation, the Nerstrand Board of Directors and Nerstrand ICT Team hopes Nerstrand Public Charter School can avoid any disruptions to learning, and keep students and staff safe, healthy, and in the classroom.

Our COVID-19 protocols page has been updated with more detail. Please review.


Family Update - May 27

Dear Families,
It is exciting to be reaching the end of this very challenging school year. We feel hopeful for the fall and getting back to a more normal structure to our school.

This year we went into grade level classrooms because of covid, but we believe in and will go back to multi-age classrooms. Although kindergarten and grade 1 are self-contained, Grades 2 & 3 and Grades 4 & 5 will be combined in their classrooms. This year reinforced our feelings about multi-age and giving all our students access to friendships and learning across grade levels. We also plan on having Homeroom again, which will be a mix of grades K-5, 3 days a week. Homeroom is a time where we work on projects (blankets for a NIC Unit, delivering May baskets, etc) and we also build school communities by having all ages work together.

Jake has begun meeting with 4th graders to recruit new band members. 5th grade Band is a chance for all of our 5th graders to learn an instrument. We are proud that although District 656 does not offer band to 5th graders, Nerstrand School does. Thank you to Jake Kaukola for continuing with band lessons even during Covid! We will also continue to have PE everyday for all of our students, which is not true of many schools across Faribault. Thank you to Carmen Bonde for working hard to follow guidelines during covid (cleaning equipment between PE sessions, following guidelines with fidelity throughout this year).

Some of the many highlights that we will be bringing back in the fall are the following:


  • Prairie Appreciation Day
  • Discovery Day
  • Faribault Homecoming Assembly


  • Halloween Parade
  • Community Lunch


  • Classroom Field Trips for each of our 3 sections; Prairie (K-1-Children's Museum), Savannah (2-3 TBD)


  • Winter Concert and PJ Day


  • WOLFRIDGE trip for 5th graders and 4th grade field trip to Ramsey House/Hill House
  • School Carnival
  • Children's play at the Faribault High School


  • Sock Hop
  • All School Field Trip to the Minnesota History Museum


  • All school field Day
  • Community Lunch
  • 5th grade field day
  • Community Celebration
  • Outdoor Band Concert
  • May Day delivery


  • School led Committees: Peace Garden, Ambassadors, Learn & Serve, School Spirit, Behavior Playground Committee, Spotlight (with visitors), Spotlight Lunches, Riverbend trips
  • PTO

Finally, teachers are excited and relieved to be able to teach in classrooms where students can work and learn together. There are many special traditions and projects that teachers plan over the year that had to be changed for covid. I am grateful to all of our teachers for the way they worked to adapt their lessons to covid guidelines and put so much effort into supporting children and families during this time. They became online teachers overnight and learned how to navigate learning management systems that in a typical year we would take hours of professional development training to master.

We also have wonderful paras that have supported students and teachers throughout this year in so many ways. Whether it was through childcare, one to one meetings with students, or helping to put together Distance Learning packets. We are fortunate to have so many dedicated paraprofessionals.

Our wonderful custodian, Mike Erickson worked tirelessly to keep up on the added cleaning protocols and keeping us up to date on expectations in the Faribault School District.

I will be forever thankful for our ICT Team this year; Barb Grote, Andrew Lubinski and Carmen Bonde. They kept current on mountains of weekly, sometimes daily, emails with safety guidelines for staff and students. They were key in our ability to avoid a covid outbreak. This year was a group effort on the part of our entire staff.

I know that our families have faced many challenges this year. Parents, guardians, grandparents were thrown into being homeschool teachers overnight, while still working. Other families may have lost jobs over this year and worked so very hard to keep their children learning in super challenging situations. Thank you to all of our families for your support over this past year.

We look forward to many new families joining us, as well as returning families to our Nerstrand Community next fall.

Happy Memorial weekend everyone. I hope you are able to relax and have time with your families!


April Family Update

Dear Families,


As we move into the final weeks of the school year, I hope you are doing well.  Although the Covid-19 case rates are rising in Rice County I still feel hopeful that Nerstrand School can continue in person schooling until the end of the year.  


Our next big challenge will be classroom quarantines.  If a child or staff member in a particular class is diagnosed with Covid-19, that classroom will have to go into a possible 14 day quarantine.  This recently occurred with our 3rd graders.  If your child(ren)’s classroom has to go into quarantine, we will organize a contactless pickup on the earliest school day after we announce the quarantine.  Teachers will have work for students on the day of pickupSince our classrooms have distance learning experience, teachers will be able to keep learning going with little interruption to the schedule.  


We realize that the majority of families do not love Distance Learning.  However, teachers have a professional responsibility to keep learning happening for all of our students this year.  We are all sick and tired of the effect the pandemic has had on this school year but teachers are still teaching to students during a quarantine.  We expect that children will be online each day and working along with their classmates.  Incomplete work will be expected to be completed when students return to school.  


It continues to be essential that families follow the CDC guidelines of mask wearing and social distancing so that we can stay in session.  Please help us to make sure we can stay in person!


I am pleased to report that we have had few broken chromebooks and chargers this year.  We do appreciate families giving any kind of donation when things get lost or broken.  


As we move into spring, we look forward to warm weather and being able to be outside more.  We are also enjoying having Liz Nelson teaching art to our classrooms.  Liz will be working here until May 11th.  We will have another digital art show sent out to families.  All of the children look forward to her lessons and it has been a bright spot in a hard year.  


I will also be sending more information about end of the year assessments, specifically the State tests (MCA’s) given to all 3rd-5th graders.  Classroom teachers will be giving more specifics about testing days, but families can help their children by making sure they are well rested before test days.


I am excited that we have completed another month in this hard year.  Thank you for all of your support and help in making this year the best it can possibly be under difficult circumstances.





Fall Enrollment from Maggie Kiley

Dear Nerstrand Families,
This time of the year is when schools are thinking about fall enrollment.  All public schools across the state have had a COVID-19 impact on enrollment and Nerstrand is no different.  Although we saw a drop in enrollment because of COVID-19,  because of our sound financial management we are able to weather this decrease without having to make big changes to our staff or structure.  I am always grateful for the expertise of our business manager, Keith Johnson.  Keith has been in this role for many years and has received financial awards from both the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and our authorizer, Novation Educational Opportunities (NEO).  Because of his financial management we have a sound fund balance that will allow us to keep our high quality programming.  
Traditionally our Kindergarten classroom has more than enough potential students, and that is the case for next fall.  However, we do have openings in other grade levels within the school.  I am asking that families help spread the word that we have openings, as many times families in the area assume that we do not have openings.  Your help with getting the word out would be greatly appreciated.  
We know that the pandemic will still have some impact on our school year next year.  We don't know exactly how things will look.  However, we are dedicated to keeping school in person and adapting our traditions to fit with any guidelines that may be required.  
I am grateful to all of our families that have gone through this journey with us.  Your support has been essential during this time.  
Maggie Kiley, M.A.Ed.
Nerstrand School 
Independent School District #4055
The Little School in the Big Woods

Friday, January 29, 2021

Good afternoon Nerstrand Families,

We are looking forward to welcoming back our 3rd-5th grade students next Tuesday, 2/2/21.  Monday is a no school day for students, as it is a Teacher Workday.  It will be wonderful to have grades Kindergarten through Grade Five here in-person! 

We have had a relatively smooth transition with bringing back grades kindergarten-2nd.  I was a classroom teacher for many years, and coming back from the winter break always felt a bit like starting the school year.    This year, with all of the changes we have had to make, it is even more so.  We know that some children are feeling excited to come back and others may be nervous.  Please reassure students that all of our staff are looking forward to having them back in the building.  We have some upcoming RiverBend trips scheduled and we look forward to bringing back some traditions (hello talent show!) this spring.  

The teachers and I will be meeting on Monday and one item is to discuss how we handle students out on quarantine/isolation.  We want to make sure that students are still learning and so we will be making more specific plans, but you will be working with your child's teacher on this if this situation arises.  

Barb asked me to include the following information in this email:

Pandemic-EBT Benefits for Families

Students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals may be eligible for Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) to purchase food for days they are not in the school building. To be considered, households must submit an application for free or reduced-price meals for the 2020-21 school year or be approved for Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Families who received P-EBT benefits last summer are not automatically eligible; eligibility is based on the current school year. Benefits may be retroactive to September 2020, depending on when eligibility for free or reduced-price meals is determined. To ensure you qualify for the most benefits, please submit your application as soon as possible, if you have not already done so. 

Here is important information about a Food Drive for the Faribault High School Children's Play we typically go to watch in January of each year. Please consider helping with this food drive!  Thank you. Here is what we recieved from Paul Johnson at the Faribault High School:

Every year over the past twenty plus years, the FHS Children’s Theatre production has collected non-perishable food items from the local elementary schools and high school students in lieu of charged admission to the production. We sorted the donations and delivered them to the Faribault Food Shelf. When Covid-19 forced them to close at the mall, we will still be supporting the community through the St. Vincent DePaul Society with food donations.

With the pandemic this year, we will not be able to have the elementary students come to the Michael J. Hanson Performing Arts Center for performances. We still will produce a show, record it, and distribute a performance of Goose-Napped a Virtual Play by Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus for elementary students’ (and community’s) entertainment.

We also plan to continue giving back to our community. We will have a “Stuff the Bus” drive and so we are asking for your help.  We will gladly drop off boxes at your school on MONDAY, January 25.   We hope you will accept a challenge and encourage students and staff to participate in collecting non-perishable food items to fill the boxes. They will be picked up on Thursday, February 4th, so we only have 3 school days to bring in donations!  Let's fill all our boxes! Thank you so much!


Finally, please continue to follow the guidelines of mask wearing and social distancing.  My hope is that we will be able to stay in person for the remainder of the year.  However, that will only be possible if we work together to keep everyone safe. 

I hope you have a great weekend!

November Blog

The first Eagles Nest of the year is a milestone and gives families a peak into activities within classrooms.   Although classrooms are busy throughout the building, the music room is especially active, as Jake prepares the students for this year's first fall concert on 11/26/19.  It is sure to be a wonderful evening and exciting to see and hear Jake's first concert at our school.  We have quite a few other activities going on around the building besides the music concert.  Art Adventures has started and will be meeting with all classrooms.  Thank you to Cara Waddell, Nicole Kadrlich and Becky Ford for visiting classrooms and training for this program.  Special thanks to Cara for keeping this tradition going at Nerstrand.  We also have Ken Lonquist doing a 3 day residency in the music room the first week of December.  Finally, we will be putting up the teepee and all classrooms will be visiting it during the week of December 9th.  Big thanks to Larry Richie for hosting the teepee event at Nerstrand School again.  

  Thank you to all of our families for your continued support of our school!,