Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools Students and Staff Transition to In-Person Learning by Tuesday, February 2
Thursday, January 7, 2021
Parents/Guardians and Staff,
Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools students and staff are currently in the distance learning model until Friday, January 15. On December 21 the Sauk Rapids-Rice School Board made the decision to extend the distance learning model for all preK through grade 12 students to enable district officials to review updated data following the holidays and to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students, staff and families.
To date, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in our community has decreased substantially. COVID-19 case rates in Benton County and surrounding counties did not see an increase following Thanksgiving and Christmas. Case rates appear to be leveling off and district COVID-19 cases and COVID Related Absences (CRAs) appear to be decreasing as well.
The Sauk Rapids-Rice Board of Education, in collaboration with the Superintendent of Schools, approved the following:
• In-person return for students PreK through grade 5 on Tuesday, January 19
• Hybrid return for students grades 6–12 on Tuesday, January 19 through January 28
This decision was made at a 6:00 p.m. special board meeting on Thursday, January 7. Board members and district officials reviewed current data provided by the Minnesota Department of Health and Benton County Public Health, as well as data relating to the district’s pre-elementary, elementary and secondary learning communities.
Important Information Regarding Your Student(s) Return
Pre-K Through Grade 5 Students
• PreK through grade 5 students will not have classes on January 14 or January 15 to provide two days for planning and preparation, outlined in Governor Walz’s updated Safe Learning Plan for an in-person return from distance learning.
• Distance Learning-Family Choice for kindergarten through grade 5 will continue as scheduled throughout the 2020 – 2021 school year.
Secondary Students in Grades 6–12: Hybrid Learning
• Secondary students in grades 6–12 will not have classes on Friday, January 15, to provide one of the two days necessary for planning and preparation, outlined in Governor Walz’s updated Safe Learning Plan
• Secondary students in grades 6–12 will not have classes on Friday, January 29, to provide the second of two days needed for planning and preparation, outlined in Governor Walz’s updated Safe Learning Plan.
Secondary Students in Grades 6–12: In-Person Return Using Rolling Start
• Grades 6 and 9 start in-person learning on Monday, February 1, and start in-person learning on Tuesday, February 2
• Grades 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 will learn remotely on Monday, February 1, and start in-person learning on Tuesday, February 2
In-person learning for ALL secondary students in grades 6-12 will start on Tuesday, February 2, continuing until a transition to a more restrictive model is warranted based on current data from MDH, Benton County Public Health and district officials.
Distance Learning-Family Choice for secondary students in grades 6–12 will not have school on Friday, January 15 and Friday, January 29.
We look forward to welcoming students and staff back on Tuesday, January 19.
District families should look for communication from the district office on Tuesday, January 12, regarding transportation, food service and other important transition information for your students and family.
Request for Parents/Guardians/Staff
Parents and guardians, please continue to be vigilant about monitoring for signs and symptoms of illness. Please report COVID-19 related symptoms to your building’s health services, even during distance learning. It is imperative that we continue monitoring illness levels in our learning communities to ensure the safety of both our schools and the broader community. District health services can help guide you through questions as appropriate.
High School and Middle School Activities
Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools will adhere to Governor Walz’s executive order regarding school district activities. Activities are scheduled to resume practices on Monday, January 4. More information will be communicated from the Storm Activities Office.
District administration and the board of education will continue to be in close consultation with Benton County Public Health officials and the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education to track multiple data points regarding the latest COVID-19 information .
It is the district’s hope that giving families as much notice as possible allows families to better plan and prepare.
Family Guidelines for Storm Strong Distance Learning
Download printable, one-page Family Guidelines for Storm Strong Distance Learning HERE (.pdf)
Student Work Environment
Quiet, consistent work environments are best for students. Create a distance learning area with as few distractions as possible. Remember that the space surrounding your student may be seen by the class during a virtual session, so ensure that it is school-appropriate.
- Respect your student’s online time with teacher and classmates. Do not engage with your student or the teacher during this time. Use office hours to connect.
- It is against the law for parents or guardians to take photos or make screenshots or recordings of any video or audio associated with learning sessions and share them publicly.*
- Respect and keep confidential personal and private information about other students during learning sessions. For example, you may inadvertently discover a classmate’s disability status. Information like this should not be shared.
Partner with Teachers
Have empathy. Know that your student’s teachers are dedicated, caring professionals who are doing their very best and want your student to succeed. Extend grace to all. Be patient with teacher responses to emails and phone calls. Your concerns are important. We may not have a chance to reply immediately.
Establish a Schedule
Routines are important. Show support as your student is on time for virtual learning sessions.
* Federal and state laws stipulate any intentional interception of oral communications occurring during a virtual or in-person classroom learning session by any person is a crime. This includes electronically recording or transmitting any classroom learning content or communication. Minnesota statues section 626A.02, subdivision 4(b)(1) stipulates that a person who commits such an offense for the first time shall be fined up to $3,000, face a year’s imprisonment or both. Although the law contains an exception where one party may record without the other party’s consent, parents or guardians may not be party to conversations occurring in a virtual or in-person classroom.
The Sauk Rapids-Rice Board of Education has approved the Sauk Rapids-Rice Safe Learning Plan, created by district administration with guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and feedback from parents/guardians and district staff. This plan outlines district guidelines and procedures for Distance Learning, Hybrid Learning and In-Person Learning Models.
- January 2021
- December 2020
- September 2020
- August 2020
- July 2020
- Optional Bi-Weekly Testing for District Staff
Is there a guarantee that privacy about testing decisions is first and foremost regarding the optional saliva test?The test result will be provided via email to the individual tested. The only people who will have access to your private information will be public health staff from the Minnesota Department of Health, local public health agencies and others as required by law. The district will not receive test results for staff but ask that they continue to voluntarily share positive results to help mitigate the spread of the virus.
Why isn’t testing mandatory? Why is the testing optional?The executive order and follow up conversations with the State of Minnesota have clearly articulated that the tests are optional. There may be some, for reasons that are personal, that cannot or do not want to test. Respecting those perspectives are important. ISD 47 is hopeful that as many as possible will participate in the testing process.
Why isn’t testing weekly?We are unsure as to why testing is done bi-weekly. We are appreciative that staff testing is an option and that the State of Minnesota is supporting the funding for the testing program.
Where will this testing take place and who will be paying for it?The tests will be self administered with guidance from Resource Training and Solutions. The district will be learning more regarding where and when these tests will be provided, completed, collected and shipped. There will be no cost to district staff. Tests are provided by the state.
How long will it take to get the results and who will get the results?Test results times will vary but the hope is within 48 hours. It is our understanding that notification will come electronically and results will go to the employee.
Are there enough substitutes to fill in for staff if a high number are infected?Staffing for absences is a concern. The district is looking at some possible solutions to improve the number of staff available to help fill in.
- Required Planning Time for District Staff
Will this extend the possible date of returning?Yes, this and/or updated data may affect the district’s decision regarding students returning to a less restrictive model.
When the district goes back to in-person learning, will special education teachers who provide services to those students in “family choice” distance learning continue to get the extra prep time on Wednesdays?Prep time will still be allotted for staff who teach full-time in distance or hybrid learning models. Due to scheduling issues, those who teach part of the day in distance learning and part of the day in a hybrid or in-person model will not have the additional prep time.
Will there be a day for families to drop-off supplies they had sent home?Students will have more supplies and winter gear than they are able to fit into their backpacks. Schools will set-up a time for material return before students come back to in-person learning.
Can the Wednesday planning time be used as an early dismissal to prevent students from losing any more critical learning time?When it is possible, the district will use Wednesdays as a day to plan. Limiting the number of lost instructional days continues to be a priority for the district.
Why is the current early dismissal time not used for planning?The early release time is for teachers to prepare their lessons for their students, as well as professional development to help support teachers. The planning time mentioned in the governor’s Safe Learning Plan is required by the plan, not by the district.
Why is there so much required planning time? Students need to learn the same things the teachers have taught every other year. Why do they need so much extra time that was never needed before?While it is true that the content that is being taught may be similar, the way the content is delivered has changed dramatically. In order to provide the most effective instruction in our new models, time to plan and learn for staff is critically important.
Would this planning time be added to the end of the school year? Would this be required if we move in and out of models in the future?No, this planning time will not be added to the end of the school year. The planning time is required under Governor Walz’s and the Minnesota Department of Education’s updated Safe Learning Plan.
- District Starting Date
Is January 11 or 18 our district start date for school?The district announced on Monday, December 21, 2020, that distance learning has been extended through January 15, 2021. The school board will be meeting the week of January 11 to determine what learning model(s) will be used in the district starting on January 19, 2021. NOTE: January 18, 2021, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and is a non-student and non-staff day.
When will the next supply pick-up be for students if the start date is moved to January 19?Please look for information from your student’s school regarding pick-up information.
Will it be a roll-out start like the beginning of the year?The determination for both elementary and secondary schools will be made by the school board when they meet the week of January 11.
If our staffing numbers are still being affected by positive/close contact cases, will we still try to reopen on January 18 or shortly thereafter or would we wait until staff numbers stabilize at a rate within which we could operate?Returning just because we can may be counterproductive if we are still having staffing issues that would force us to have to stop a couple weeks later. In making the decision to extend distance learning another week, the school board hopes to have a better understanding of COVID-19 in our community and with our staff after the holidays. If the data supports a less restrictive model, the board will look to move in that direction.
Will grades 3 through 5 be starting two full weeks after kindergarten through grade 2?Because the district had notified families of a possible return to school on January 11, 2021, if the data supported a less restrictive model, the district does not have to utilize the "rolling" start and only bring in three grade levels at a time. The school board can choose to make that decision but it does not have to.
What are the potential starting dates for middle and high school?Starting dates for a less restrictive model for all buildings will be determined by the school board when they meet the week of January 11.
Can students who have health risks still choose a distance learning plan?Yes. Distance Learning by Family Choice will still be in effect.
Since kindergarten, first and second grade started first in the fall, shouldn’t third, fourth and fifth grade start first when they are able to return?Starting dates for a less restrictive model for all buildings and grade levels will be determined by the school board when they meet the week of January 11.
- Other/Miscellaneous Items
Will supplies sent home be cleaned or returned earlier than the start date in order to ensure their cleanliness?There will be an additional pick-up and drop-off for schools. Please look for information on this topic in information that will come from each school.
How will the substitute shortage be addressed, as that is the reason we went to distance learning in the first place?The district has continued to explore ways to provide additional substitute supports. Look for more information from the district on a potential plan coming soon.
Will essential care be provided during the transition to in-person learning?Yes, essential care will be provided for students whose parents/guardians are essential workers.
Will Distance Learning - Family Choice still be an option?Yes, Distance Learning - Family Choice will continue. If families are interested in returning to in-person learning, the district asks they notify their student's building as soon as possible as return to classrooms in-person are scheduled at natural breaks and require physical room preparation.
Will we still return to distance learning if we do not have the staff to occupy and appropriately run the classrooms?Yes, if individual building(s) or the district, due to COVID-19 Related Absences (CRAs), are unable to appropriately provide instruction and supervision, a decision to move to a more restrictive learning model will be made.
If we need to change learning models, what will be the process of notifying families?The district will use its normal communication protocols (Skylert email and/or text communications, the district website and social media) to let families know that there will be a change in learning models.
With county data for COVID, what is the date we will use to determine which plan(s) we will be in?The school district made a decision about what plan with which to begin the school year during the week of August 10–14. It should be noted that county data closer to the start of school will determine if the model the district announced in early August will be the one in which we remain or if there will be a change on September 8, 2020.
Can masks be donated?Yes, face coverings can be donated to the Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools through the district office or to the individual building or your choice.
What if my student(s) can’t wear a face-covering because they have a medical issue?The governor's executive order is very clear that all must wear a face covering while allowing for some exemptions. The school board will be acting on a face covering policy at the August 24 board meeting and based upon the draft of this policy, as well as the governor's executive order, the following will be the expectation of all who enter into district buildings: Face coverings will be worn by all staff, students and guests while on district property. Exceptions are made only for those with documented medical exemptions that have been reviewed and approved by District 47 administration. What this means is if your child has a documented medical exemption, they will not have to follow the executive order or upcoming board policy (provided it is approved at the next board meeting). Even without board policy, the governor's executive order is still in effect and your child would still have to demonstrate a medical exemption in order to not wear a mask.
Will students have to wear face coverings in physical education classes? At recess?Face coverings are not required during periods of physical exertion.
Will/Could the elementary schools and the secondary schools (middle school and high school) be on different learning models/plans?Yes, there are actually five learning models:
• In-person model for all students kindergarten through grade 12
• In-person model for kindergarten through grade 5/hybrid model grades 6 through 12
• Hybrid model for all students kindergarten through grade 12
• Hybrid model for all students kindergarten through grade 5/distance learning model for grades 6 through 12
• Distance learning model for all students kindergarten through grade 12
What does the district mean when they use the phrase, “Base Model?”The Base Model refers to the model in which the school district will use to start the school year. On August 13, 2020, the School Board approved the In-Person Model for E–12 students as the Base Model.
If I choose to have my child participate in the distance learning model, is my child eligible for school-aged care?No, if a family chooses to have their child participate in distance learning, their child and/or children are not eligible for school-aged care.
How will parents/guardians be notified of COVID cases?Parents/Guardians will be made aware of COVID cases (in general) to the extent that it affects their student’s learning space.
What if one parent/guardian is an essential worker (Tier 1) but the other isn’t?School-aged students (age 5–12) will be provided for parents/guardians that are Tier 1 essential employees if the district uses a hybrid or distance learning model. The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has further clarified that if there are two parents/guardians in the household, both parents/guardians must be Tier I essential employees to qualify for the free child care. If there is only one parent in the household, that parent must be a Tier I essential employee.
Will students have recess?Students will have recess to the extent possible outdoors.
Kindergarten, sixth grade, ninth grade and new students usually have an orientation. How will that be handled?The school board approved the In-Person Learning Model as the district’s Base Learning Model. The school board directed building and district administrators to provide an orientation period or slow start, for all grades. It is important for students and staff to learn how to implement safety protocols and procedures. Please check your student’s school website for building and grade-specific schedules.
Will parents/guardians be able to go to school with their kids?Unfortunately not. Part of the district’s Safe Learning Plan safety protocols includes that no non-essential visitors will be allowed in the buildings.
Can a parent choose to switch models if it is not working?Distance learning is an option all year for families. Families can switch from the current model to distance learning if the current learning model is not working for them. Families can also transition from distance learning to the current model at natural breaks in the school schedule. An example of a natural break would be at the end of a trimester. Families must contact the student's building to obtain an appropriate return date.
Will families drop school supplies off at open house or on the first day of school?Families should contact their child’s school for further information on when to drop off supplies.
Is the open house for high sSchool canceled?Open house is still being offered at SRRHS. Please check the high school website for more information. Visit http://ow.ly/mlEv50Bf1Gj
If a family chooses distance learning can the student(s) participate in sports and/or activities?Students who are in distance learning as the option of receiving their education can still participate in sports and/or activities. They are still students in the district.
Would Early Childhood Family Education at Hillside and/or Rice follow the same model as the elementary schools?Yes, Early Childhood will be following the same model as elementary schools in the district.
Are the disposable masks and (personal protective equipment) PPE latex-free?Yes, they are.
If parents/guardians choose to do distance learning for their special needs children, how can you improve the communication between the teachers and parents/guardians so students and parents/guardians don’t get frustrated?Communication is extremely important between schools and families. During a pandemic, that communication becomes even more important. For families with students receiving special education services, the district will be connecting with them before the school year starts to develop a contingency plan to help best meet the needs of the child. It is during this conversation that communication protocols will be established.
Who makes the decision to switch learning models?At the board meeting on Monday, August 24, 2020, the school board passed a resolution to allow the superintendent to determine if a change in learning models is needed. It will be done in consultation with the school board.
Does the school board have to approve every change in models?The district’s superintendent, after consultation the school board, is authorized to select and implement a different learning model for the district or any specific school buildings without school board action if the superintendent reasonably believes that prompt implementation of a different learning model is necessary, and that if constraints of time and public health considerations render it impractical to hold a school board meeting to approve the implementation.
The superintendent and members of the Covid-19 Infection Management Team (CIM Team) will meet regularly to review district, Benton County and Minnesota data. Information gained through these meetings will help the district best determine if the model the district is in needs to stay as is or if a change to a more or less restrictive model is needed.
Will there be a substitute shortage? If so will the school need to group students from more than one class together?There has been a substitute teacher shortage for some time in our community. The district is currently developing strategies in how classes will be conducted if a teacher is absent and unable to teach. Students from multiple classrooms being grouped together is not an option unless the space is large enough to accommodate social distancing expectations.
If a case is reported does that automatically move everyone to distance learning or would in-person continue?If a case is reported, it will not automatically mean that distance learning will become the learning model that will be used by everyone.
Will schools provide face shields for students who receive speech services?Schools will not provide face shields for students receiving speech services. Please contact your student’s school to find out if one is needed and if so what specifications are needed regarding a face shield.
Will there be grace given for those who are missing more than the recommended amount of days due to illness?Communication is the key, so please make sure you are communicating with your student’s teacher and building health secretary if your student is ill.
Should a parent/guardian get a note from their student's doctor if the student has chronic allergies?If you are able to obtain a note from your student’s physician regarding chronic allergies and/or chronic conditions that may be flagged as “less” and/or “more” common symptoms of COVID-19, the building will put the note in your student’s file and take it into consideration as they are evaluated for symptoms/illness.
If a parent needs to pick-up early or drop-off their child late will they come into the school or walk them up to the secured entrance? What is the process?If parents/guardians need to pick up or drop off their students during the school day, please let the school know, as you have done in the past, the time and reason for the absence. Please feel free to bring them to or pick them up from the building's main/secured entrance. Your student will be allowed to enter or be released, but parents/guardians will not enter the building.
- Governor's Plan
Does the district have to use county data to make instructional model decisions?Districts must have the approval from the Department of Health (MDH) to use an instructional model (Face-to-Face or Hybrid) that is different from the one supported by the county data. Minnesota school districts are unable to select what data they want to use and what data they do not want to use. Additionally, districts can not average the data from different counties. The MDH and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) indicated schools may choose a more restrictive instructional model if desired. Again, if a decision is based on different data, it must be approved by the Department of Health and Commissioner of Education. ISD 47 has not been given permission or approval to do so. Finally, guidance states, “School districts must adhere to the health requirements and recommendations in the MDH 2020–2021 Planning Guidance” and that “the education commissioner retains statutory authority to order the transition from in-person instruction to a distance learning model if it is determined—after consultation with MDH—that in-person instruction is no longer safe due to concerns related to COVID-19.” In summary: The Department of Health (MDH) has determined (as of the July 18–July 31 data) it is safe for elementary-aged students to be in person. As of July 18–July 31: Per these same regulations, MDH has determined that secondary students (6–12) would participate in a hybrid learning model. ISD 47 is hopeful that data obtained closer to the start of school will allow for more face-to-face instruction. We will continue to work with the State Department of Health to explore the safest and best options for our families.
What can you tell us about requirements related to students, masks and/or face coverings?The Governor's Executive Order 20-81 requires all Minnesotans to wear a face-covering in all indoor businesses and public indoor spaces, unless alone. This includes times on a school bus and/or van.
According to the Order: Face coverings include a paper or disposable face mask, a cloth face mask, a scarf, a bandana, a neck gaiter, or a religious face covering. Individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that makes it unreasonable for the individual to maintain a face covering are exempt. Children five-years-old and under who are not yet in Kindergarten are not required to wear a face shield or face covering, and children under two should never wear a face-covering due to the risk of suffocation. Kindergarten through grade 12 schools must comply with face covering and face shield guidance. Face coverings may be removed:
- When participating in organized sports in an indoor business or indoor public space while the level of exertion makes it difficult to wear a face covering.
- When exercising, while the level of exertion makes it difficult to wear a face covering, provided that social distancing is always maintained.
- During practices or performances in an indoor business or indoor public space when a face covering cannot be used while playing a musical instrument, provided that social distancing is always maintained.
- During activities, such as swimming or showering, where the face-covering will get wet.
- When eating or drinking in an indoor business or indoor public space, provided that at least 6 feet of physical distance are maintained between persons who are not members of the same party.
- When asked to remove a face covering to verify an identity for lawful purposes. While communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing or has a disability, medical condition or mental health condition that makes communication with that individual while wearing a face-covering difficult, provided that social distancing is maintained to the extent possible between persons who are not members of the same household.
- While receiving a service—including a dental examination or procedure, medical examination or procedure, or personal care service.
- When an individual is alone, including when alone in an office, a room, a cubicle with walls that are higher than face level when social distancing is maintained.
What will the district be offering for child care?ISD 47 is still refining details related to child care based on such things as available space, staffing, family need, and safety. At a minimum, school-age care must be provided for district or (enrolled) school-age children age 12 and under who are children of critical workers in Tier I of the state critical worker list. Children of Tier I workers only will be cared for at no cost during the typical school hours. The Tier I list of eligible children are: Tier I
- Healthcare and public health
- Law enforcement, public safety and first responders
- Food and agriculture
- Judicial Branch (essential services)
- National Guard (activated under a Governor Executive Order)
- Educators and school staff providing in-person instruction or caring for children of critical workers, child care and school-age care providers
- Safe Learning Plan
Is it possible that my child’s school will be face to face, hybrid and virtual throughout the year?Yes, it is possible. Decisions about whether a school and/or school district can be occurring on-site and/or virtually will be made in collaboration with the Department of Health and Department of Education. Based on the number of cases and levels of exposure, it is possible that a child may experience each of the three models throughout the year.
My child is in a small special education class already, will that impact the hybrid model for daily attendance?Possibly. Individual IEP needs may impact attendance requirements.
Which two-week period will (did) the district use to determine which model will be used to start the school year?The two-week period that will be used is July 19 through August 1. This data was reported on Thursday, August 13, 2020.
How will students with IEPs be supported in distance learning?Individual IEPs dictate the level and type of service. Special education coordinators and staff will work directly with families to navigate student needs.
If I choose distance learning can I stay with that option for the whole year?Yes.
Will parents/guardians be able to choose virtual/distance learning even if the district is in a hybrid or in-person?Yes, parents will be able to select a virtual or distance learning model for their child, even if face-to-face learning is the guidance offered by the state and/or district.
ISD 47 announced it would communicate the district’s back-to-school plans the week of August 10–August 14. Why can’t the district announce them earlier?Back-to-school plans may change based on recommendations from the Department of Education (MDE) and the Department of Health’s (MDH) rolling two-week statistics. In addition, final plans will depend on things such as parent preference (i.e. distance learning or not), availability of staff, the capacity to address an outbreak, the number of students requesting transportation, etc. ISD 47 will utilize the latest data from the MDH in order to provide a safe return to a learning plan that serves our specific school community.
What is the timeline for making a decision on what model our district will use to start the school year?ISD 47 plans to announce what model the district will be in the week of August 10–August 14.
What does “in-person” mean?In-person means all students pre-k through grade 12 will learn in school. Families can choose distance learning as an alternative to in-person learning.
What is the metric for no face coverings?Face coverings are not required when social distancing can be achieved outdoors. Face coverings are required when indoors. Here is some additional information regarding face coverings in our Safe Learning Plan: Staff, students and other people present in the school building or in district offices may temporarily remove their face covering or face shield while maintaining a distance of six (6) feet in the following situations:
- When engaging in indoor physical activity (e.g., during recess, after school sports, or when exercising in a gym) where the level of exertion makes wearing a face-covering difficult.
- During classes or activities held outdoors.
- Pre-kindergarten students age five (5) years and younger participating in programming in a school building or district office. Pre-kindergarten programs are subject to the Executive Order requirements and related guidance applicable in child care settings; see Masking Requirements for Child Care (www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/schools/masks.html).
- Face coverings may be temporarily removed to eat or drink, but care should be taken to maintain as much space as possible between people, recognizing it is not always feasible to maintain a distance of six (6) feet from others.</br>
- During indoor practices or performances involving singing, acting, public speaking or playing musical instruments where a face covering cannot be used while playing the instrument. Performers should maintain a physical distance of six (6) feet or greater to the extent possible. Face coverings should be replaced as soon as the activity is completed.
- People who are entering the school building during the day may be required by school staff to briefly remove their face covering for the purposes of checking identification.
- Staff working alone in their offices, classrooms, vehicles or other job locations who do not have any person-to-person interaction.
- Staff working in communal spaces (e.g., at desks or in cubicles) that have barriers such as plexiglass or cubicle walls between employees that are above face level.
- When communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing or has a disability, medical condition or mental health condition that makes communication with a face-covering difficult, provided that social distancing is maintained to the extent possible.
Will there be specialized classes for advanced learners?It is the intention of the district to continue to offer classes that it would normally offer, including any classes for advanced learners.
Is there a plan for all students to get back to school eventually—even those that chose distance learning?The district will continue to review and apply guidance provided by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Benton County Public Health, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Governor’s Executive Orders. When guidance is provided that it is safe for students and staff to return fully to in-person learning, the district will evaluate a re-entry plan and process.
If a student is sick for a day or two can they/should they be switching to distance learning while they are ill?No, if a student is ill they should rest and get healthy. Homework and lessons will be provided by the teacher(s) for absences in the same way they have been in the past. If an illness becomes prolonged, the student’s teacher and building administration will review model options with the student/parents/guardians.
- Safety and Sanitizing
What safety precautions will be in place to protect our students/staff from COVID?Advanced cleaning protocols have been established to ensure cleanliness and sanitization. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been secured to best provide safety needs for staff and students. Busses will be cleaned after each student's usage.
Will schools have isolation rooms identified if a student or students fall sick during the day?Yes, each school will have an isolation room identified for individuals not feeling well.
Will there be increased cleaning protocols implemented throughout our schools?Yes, increased cleaning protocols will be implemented in each of our schools.
Will temperatures be taken before students enter the building?Students and staff will have their temperature taken before entering the building each day. We ask parents/guardians to the extent possible to take their student’s temperature in the morning before leaving for school and to keep their student home if their temperature is 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) or higher.
Do all schools have adequate air exchange/air cleaning?Please know the district has good quality air ventilation systems. The systems that are in our current buildings are similar to the one we will be putting into the new Pleasantview that is opening in the fall of 2022. Typically, school districts run their ventilation systems as required by building code. In the COVID-19 era some of the HVAC improvements our district will be implementing this year compared to a standard school year are as follows:
- Increase the amount of fresh air brought into our buildings through the ventilation systems.
- Increase the run time the system operates each day, which will increase the number of air exchanges in occupied spaces.
- Run the ventilation system on the weekends to allow more air exchanges.
- Regularly check the filters and increase the replacement schedule.
- Restart the ventilation systems earlier in August to ensure adequate air quality prior to the start of school.
- Increase the monitoring frequency of building automation systems.
How is the ventilation assessed in each building?Ventilation systems are assessed by checking filters on a regular basis and changing them out along with our other routine maintenance. We also are regularly looking at our building management system.
Are students sharing school supplies? The list is smaller this year than in the past.School supplies should not be shared. Please check with your child’s school if you have concerns with the materials being requested.
Will the district keep an eye on cases in Stearns County? There are many staff and students who live, work and shop there.The district reviews data regularly from Benton County and surrounding counties. In addition, the district is in close contact with Benton County public health officials, who also collaborate with surrounding counties. District officials meet regularly to review data and protocols.
Is the district requesting quarantines for students/families who travel out of state?At this time (September 8, 2020), the district is not requiring quarantine for students/families and/or staff who travel out of state. If the district receives guidance about travel to certain regions, areas or states is not recommended due to COVID-19 cases, and that safety protocols need to be revised, the district will communicate with families, staff and the community.
How will transportation run in the face-to-face model?In a face-to-face model, transportation would happen the same way it did prior to COVID-19, and would allow for up to 77 children on a bus.
What is the expectation for managing transportation in a “mixed” model, where elementary is in-person and secondary is hybrid?We are looking to get further information from MDE on this. Once we get more information, we will share it with our families.
Can students take the bus to and from free child care if a distance model is used?If a full distance learning model is used, school-aged students (age 5–12) of Tier 1 essential employees may ride a bus to the district’s childcare location(s). Students need to maintain six feet of distance between themselves and others, diminishing bus capacity.
Can students take the bus to and from the district’s free child care if a hybrid model is used?Students will not be able to ride the bus to child care if the district moves to a Hybrid Learning Model because this model dictates that students will be required to maintain six feet of distance between them and others, which diminishes the bus capacity.
- Food Service
Are all students provided with lunch or can they bring their own?School lunch will be offered to all students, but students can bring their own lunch if they prefer.
Will students have lunch in the lunchroom?Elementary students will eat lunch in their classrooms if the district is in the in-person model or hybrid model. Secondary students will eat in the lunchroom and additional lunch periods/spaces will be added in order to accommodate social distancing.
I saw that the Department of Agriculture extended free lunches for all students. Will this be implemented immediately?Some information from the Department of Agriculture did come out on August 31, 2020, regarding the extension of the summer food program into the fall of 2020. While this is great news for families, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has advised districts to wait for guidance from the USDA before implementing any changes. Said differently, the district will continue to charge student accounts for meals until this guidance is received and appropriate procedures are in place.
When will kids get their devices?Laptop distribution for grade 10–12 will be on Tuesday, August 18, and Wednesday, August 19. iPads will be distributed to grades 6–8 on Tuesday, August 25, and Wednesday, August 26.
Will the district provide iPads/laptops (devices) if the distance learning model is used?For students in grades 3–12, we are a 1:1 district and devices will therefore be available for students in those grades. The district has purchased additional devices for our kindergarten through second-grade students but we do not have enough devices for all children. The district will continue to seek funding to help purchase more devices for our K–2 students.