By this time next week school officials at Moose Lake, Barnum and Willow River expect to have a plan ready to implement for the 2020-2021 school year.
The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), Minnesota Department of Health(MDH) and the Governor’s Office are anticipated to make a decision on what form the coming school year will take. School districts have been informed to plan for three possible scenarios: in-person school, distance learning and a hybrid model of the two.
Of the three possible scenarios, a hybrid model will be the most complicated to implement. All three districts are working to plan for this type of scenario. Elements of the distance learning model and the in-person model are needed to create a hybrid model. Possibilities for a hybrid model could be rotating student schedules and limiting the number of students physically in the building. There is also the strong possibility that each of the three scenarios being planned for will need to implemented and then moved away from during they year.
Concerns with planning are busing, daycare and food services. Ensuring social distancing specifically on buses has been a concern for both Moose Lake and Barnum School Districts. Limiting capacity for school buses to half would cause bus loads to be in some estimates at 14 students. A shortage of bus drivers is being reported in the state. Route limitations and shared seating with family groups are all proposed plans for the coming year.
Custodial staff in some plans are being allowed one day of the week between scheduled student classes for deep cleaning the building. Increased cleaning and personal protection equipment are also a part of the plans being made in each district.
Parents, teachers, non-education staff, administrators and students have created planning committees within Barnum, Moose Lake and Willow River school districts.
These committees are working hard to learn from the spring session of distance learning and create a plan for the coming school year. Each district has had a vocal group of parents and students working with school staff to provide insight into what worked for distance learning and what could be improved on.
Both Moose Lake and Barnum School District posted and sent out surveys to parents and staff about their experience with distance learning. They also worked to gage the willingness of parents to send students back to school based on what MDE and MDH determine is the best course of action.
Willow River School District announced their intention to send out a survey once they learned more about the future from MDE and MDH. Their intention, stated during their regular Willow River School Board meeting, was not to overwhelm parents by sending out too many surveys.
One area of concern has been the use of different technology for distance learning by teachers. Willow River School Board was informed that this year the school will be working on creating a unified learning software plan. This was an area of feedback that they received from parents participating last year in distance learning. Moose Lake School Board held a discussion on Schoology, during their regular school board meeting.
Both discussions were held with the hope that by creating an identifiable usage pattern within the district that parents would have an easier time with using the software.
Barnum School Board is planning to hold a special meeting on August 4.
Moose Lake School Board is planning to hold a special meeting on August 5.
Willow River has not announced a time and date for their special meeting.
A decision on if sports seasons will take place is also expected soon. Discussion of moving fall sports to a different time frame has taken place. Districts are planning to hold further discussions on extracurricular activities once more information from MDE, MDH and the Minnesota High School League is available.