Distance learning extended at Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Sauk Rapids-Rice Families, Students, Staff and Community,
As we move toward the end of November we want to provide definitive communication about what will happen with the district’s elementary, secondary and pre-elementary student learning models beginning on Monday, November 30, 2020.
Amid this latest surge in the COVID-19 pandemic, and in order to protect the safety, health and wellbeing of our students, families and staff, the Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools Board of Education and district administration have made the decision to extend the Distance Learning-District Decision Model for all pre-K through grade 12 students.
Elementary Grades (K-5)
Elementary students currently in distance learning will continue in this model through Friday, January 8, 2021. This decision was made in accordance with Governor Walz’s Executive Order and guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and Benton County Public Health.
If the data supports it, the district will transition elementary students to a less restrictive learning model on January 11, 2021.
Secondary (Middle and High School) Grades
Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School and High School students currently in Distance Learning (District Decision) will continue in this model through Friday, January 8, 2021. This decision was made in accordance with Governor Walz’s Executive Order and guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and Benton County Public Health.
If the data supports it, the district will transition secondary students to a less restrictive learning model on January 11, 2021.
Students participating in our Early Childhood programs (ECFE, ECSE and Preschool) will continue in a distance learning model through Friday, January 8, 2021, and if the data supports it, the district will transition to a less restrictive learning model on January 11, 2021.
Distance Learners (Family Choice)
Distance Learners (Family Choice) will remain in their current program.
Request for Parents/Guardians
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 buildings to ensure the safety of both our schools and the broader community. District health services can help guide you through questions as appropriate.
Nutrition Services for All Pre-K-12 Students
Grab-and-go Meal pick-up for ALL families, including Distance Learning-Family Choice students, is on Wednesdays from 2:00–6:00 p.m. Sauk Rapids-Rice students and families may pick up free grab-and-go meals for each pre-kindergarten through grade 12 Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools district-enrolled student. There will be one breakfast and one lunch provided for each day that school is in session.
Meal pick-up is available at all K–12 locations. If you are a family with students in multiple locations, please select the location that is most convenient for you.
Sign-up for these meals each week prior to pick-up here.
Meal Pick Up Locations:
- Pleasantview Elementary – Door 1
- Mississippi Heights Elementary – Door 11
- Rice Elementary – Door 9 (old Door 1)
- Middle School – Door 4
- High School – Door 4
Child Care for Students (Grades K-5) of Essential Workers
If you are interested in learning more about child care opportunities in the district, please use the following links:
- Mississippi Heights and Pleasantview Elementary, please visit https://www.bgcmn.org/kidstop/kidstop-registration/register-online/
- Rice Elementary, please visit https://saukrapids.revtrak.net/rw-kids-club-res/ or contact Community Education at (320) 258-1577.
Essential Works K-5 Child Care Transportation
After registering for K-5 child care, fill out the transportation request form.
Transportation will be provided to qualified students 24 hours after the registration is accepted/processed.
Essential Works 6-8 Child Care Transportation
Child care is available through the central Minnesota Boys and Girls Club for children of essential workers. The Eastside Boys and Girls Club will be open for Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School students (grades 6–8) from 7:30 a.m.– 6:30 p.m., Monday through Friday during the school closure. The program cost is $27.00 per day. Register here.
Sauk Rapids-Rice High School and Middle School Activities
Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools will adhere to Governor Walz’s executive order regarding school district activities.
District administration, teachers and support staff are committed to continuing to provide a high-quality education for all of our students. The district is well-prepared to continue implementing full distance learning for students in grades pre-K–12.
The primary reason for this extension of the Distance Learning Model is because public health officials and representatives from the Minnesota Department of Health have indicated that the number of positive cases will continue to increase and the data does not support a less restrictive model through early January. Additionally, it provides a set timeframe to parents and guardians for planning purposes.
District administration and the Sauk Rapids-Rice Board of Education have been 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 within the district and with regard to our surrounding communities.
The board of education and district administration will monitor COVID-19 levels throughout our communities, and if an extension would be warranted, that would be discussed with our state partners from MDE and MDH.
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.
- Students, parents or guardians may not take photos, make screenshots or recordings of any video or audio associated with learning sessions.*
- 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.
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, 6th grade, 9th 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 and 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.
- 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 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.