​Local School Districts to make decisions next week

​Local School Districts to make decisions next week Click to Enlarge

On Thursday, Governor Tim Walz and the Department of Education released guidance for the new school year. Each Minnesota school district will decide, how they will begin the upcoming school year. Whether they start the year with in-person, distance-learning, or the “hybrid model” which is a combination of the two. As we look around to the local school districts many will announce their decisions next week.

Each local school district will choose its learning model. These guidelines don’t govern private schools, but the state will provide masks to them. The learning model recommendation is based on this formula: The total number of COVID-19 cases in the county for the last 14 days, divided by the county population divided by 10,000. That gives the 14-day county case level rate per 10,000.

  • If that number is less than 10: in-person learning
  • 10-20: in-person elementary, hybrid secondary
  • 20-30: hybrid for both
  • 30-50: hybrid elementary, distance secondary
  • 50+: distance for all

“This guidance isn’t drawn in stone,” Walz said; however, using current data, the recommendations would be:

  • 181 districts start with in-person learning
  • 230 districts start with in-person elementary with hybrid learning for secondary
  • 107 districts start with hybrid learning for elementary and secondary
  • 7 districts start with hybrid for elementary, and distance learning for secondary
  • 9 districts start with distance learning for elementary and secondary

MDE and MDH will work with school districts and local health professionals to help districts decide if they need to switch learning models. The plan prioritizes keeping younger children in the classroom since transmission is less likely for younger children and in-person learning is critical at that age.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 17, 2020, reported that those under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of COVID-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of coronavirus deaths. The plan requires school districts and charter schools to allow families to choose to learn remotely even if the district chooses in-person learning. School districts must allow teachers and employees to work remotely as much as possible.

“The health and safety of our students, educators, school staff, and families are our number one priority,” MDE Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said in a statement. “This localized approach that is centered on the data and informed by a school’s ability to follow all the public health requirements, will help school districts and charter schools navigate this uncertain school year.”

MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm said it's hard to predict how COVID-19 will impact schools this fall. “It is important for the well-being of Minnesota children that we get this right, and that we have solid and flexible plans in place to adapt to the COVID-19 challenge," Malcolm said in a statement.

Fergus Falls Superintendent, Jeff Drake, said Fergus might not make their decision known until August 10th. Drake remarked, “The directives from the Minnesota Department of Education and the governor's office, in conjunction with those survey results, will be part of a presentation that I give to the school board on Monday (August 3rd) morning with some recommendations. From there we will go into a work session to just iron out any questions or concerns that might remain. Could happen possibly on Monday but I anticipate it happening more on August 10th, the school board approving the district's reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year. Information will go out to families about how the district's approaching within just a day or two after the board has formally approved it.”

Detroit Lakes Superintendent, Mark Jenson released a letter to Laker families on Thursday evening indicating that he would be releasing more information next week after having time to coordinate with the Minnesota Department of Health, Education and local families.

Perham Superintendent, Mitch Anderson said, “The Perham-Dent School Board is meeting on Tuesday, August 4th to discuss the available options, and review the feedback from parents, staff and community members. The school board will also provide our Building Leadership Teams direction on what plan to fully develop for the start of school (August 31). The School Board will approve the final plan at the August 12th regular meeting.”

Jon Moore, Ashby Principal, stated in a letter to parents that a special school board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday evening at 6 to finalize the plan. After it’s finalized the information will be presented to families.

Battle Lake School, On Monday, August 3rd will present their plan and recommendation to the school board for review and guidance. They will be sharing specifics about their plan on Tuesday, August 4th.

Pelican Rapids, will have a special school board meeting on Monday, August 3rd, and will release their information afterword.

Underwood School, will have a special school board meeting on Wednesday, August 5th. And will send out information to parents and students after the plan is confirmed.

West Central Area Schools said that they will address their options at the School Board Meeting on Wednesday, August 5th. And will release they plan afterword.

After receiving back to school guidance from Governor Walz on Thursday, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) will now begin to formulate their plan for fall sports and activities. The task force, authorized by the Board of Directors at its meeting on July 14, consists of activities administrators from throughout Minnesota and is assisted by League staff. This group will present options for return to participation for member schools’ implementation of co-curricular activities on Tuesday, August 4 during the board’s next scheduled meeting. A decision on fall sports should be released after the board's next meeting, August 4.

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