This Thursday Governor Tim Walz will announce his reopening plan for Minnesota schools, a day that districts across the state have been waiting for with bated breath.
The Minnesota Department of Education released their guidance on June 18, giving districts three different scenarios to prepare for:
Scenario 1: In-person learning for all students (traditional school model). This scenario may be implemented assuming state COVID-19 metrics continue to stabilize and/or improve.
Scenario 2: Hybrid learning (some in person and some distance learning) with strict social distancing and capacity limits. In this scenario, students would attend school two days per week and distance learning three days per week with no more than 50% of students allowed on campus at any time. This scenario may be implemented if COVID-19 metrics worsen at the local, regional, or statewide level.
Scenario 3: Distance learning only. This scenario may be implemented if local, regional, or statewide COVID-19 metrics worsen significantly enough to require the suspension of all in-person learning.
During its regular July 13 meeting, the Pine City School Board listened to an update on fall planning from the administration. High School Principal Troy Anderson told the board that he is leaning toward a hybrid learning model (scenario 2), but is also planning for schools to return to distance learning only.
"I believe that there's a high likelihood that we're going to have to pivot to a different model," Anderson told the school board. "I think that there is a decent likelihood that we're going to have to pivot to a full distance learning model again, and we can't neglect that planning when it comes to getting ready for fall."
The Pine City School District discussed having K-3rd grade students attend school every day. The rest of the student body would be split into groups with one group attending on Mondays and Tuesdays and the second attending on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays would be used by staff to clean the facilities between student groups.
Boardmembers members both commended the district for its quick response in the spring but also voiced concerns of losing enrollment to online schools if Pine City implemented distance learning again.
"If that's what we're going to do in the fall, then they're [parents] starting to look at online school programs and open enrolling in online school programs because they feel its put together. They don't want the chaos that they experienced," said Wendy Leibel. "How do we look at things through the lens of an online school provider?"
Superintendent Dr. Curt Tryggestad responded to Leibel's comments by saying parental feedback will drive what district does in the fall with any implemented plan.
"We know we have to do it differently, and that is being discussed," Tryggested said.
Dr. Tryggestad wrote in a letter to parents that the district will kick into overdrive to create the reopening plan once a decision is made by Governor Walz.
"A School Board work session will be called to present our recommendations to the School Board prior to the regularly scheduled meeting. As soon thereafter as possible, students and families will be contacted with more detailed information about the opening of the school year."
A survey will be sent to parents via ahead of the decision to provide the district's reopening committee with feedback as they plan for the decision.
Gov. Walz is expected to announce his reopening plan on Thursday, July 30.