Pine City students will be starting school in person according to a decision by the Pine City School board.
The decision is in line with Governor Tim Walz Safe Learning Plan which uses COVID-19 cases per 10,000 people to help determine the learning plan school districts can use. Pine County has maintained a 14-day confirmed case rate of less than 10 per 10,000 residents since May 31.
In the chance that the school district needs to switch models due to state mandate or an outbreak in Pine County, Pine City has partnered with local public health and the Department of Health to aid in the next steps.
"There is no flow chart that says exactly what you are going to do," Pine City Superintendent Dr. Curt Tryggestad told WCMP.
Dr. Tryggestad said there are a set of procedures put in place in the event there is an exposure. Working with these agencies in the spring and summer, Tryggestad went onto say that he's impressed with their response to potential infections.
"They've been responsive and very level headed... responses are measured, planned, and they make sense for the situation."
Schools fall under Gov. Walz Executive Order 20-81 requiring face coverings for everyone over the age of 5-years-old.
"Our kids will have to wear masks," said Dr. Tryggestad. "If there are cases where its either medically or some other definitive reason why a person can't wear a mask, then shields are an option."
Dr. Tryggestad said students will not be suspended or excluded for not wearing a face covering, but the district still has a responsibility to protect students and staff. Other options might be explored to meet the needs of all involved.
Despite the decision to start in person, any parents or students who are uncomfortable attending classes may choose distance learning. The district says the distance learning will look different than it did during the spring.
In a letter sent to parents, Pine City noted improvements made to the program.
Distance learners will be paced the same as in-person learners. If you choose the distance learning option for your child or children, know that we listened to stakeholder feedback in regard to distance learning in the spring of 2020.
Some of the improvements we will implement will include:
1. Teachers’ pages will all have a consistent look to their distance learning home page
2. Week at a glance will be incorporated to have a consistent view of expectations each week
3. Google Classroom will be the consistent platform in which students will receive and hand in assignments
4. Weekly email on where to find pertinent information
The district said they are working on a system where teachers will record their lessons and send them home via thumb drives in an effort to keep all students on the pace.
Pine City Schools have added technology so all students K-12 can have a learning device, including internet hotspots.
Transportation for students is expected to largely look the same for Pine City Schools. Dr. Tryggestad says the district has 77 passenger buses which can be filled to half capacity.
"Most of our routes on an average basis are at that 50% or less," said Tryggestad.
Pine City may add extra routes or multiple trips when needed, but Dr. Tryggestad does encourage families to drop off their students when it works for their schedules.
The school district is currently gathering more feedback from parents about distance learning and transportation with a survey. Families have until Monday, August 17 to respond.
Pine City's first day of school is scheduled for Tuesday, September 8.
WCMP's News Director Joe Keyport had a chance to sit down with Dr. Tryggestad to ask about the 2020-2021 school year. You can listen to the full update or you can skip to the 15-minute mark where the interview begins.