Autumn

The 1872 one-room school house in Chaska.

The Eastern Carver County School Board met July 20 to discuss and review potential COVID-19 plans for the upcoming school year.

While few decisions can be made until Gov. Tim Walz makes a statewide announcement on July 30, board members weighed in on three different models of learning, potential safety modifications and how to collect and evaluate feedback.

1. WHO CREATED THE PLANS?

Subcommittees of principals, building leaders, teachers and other school district members have been working on every aspect — there’s been a lot of meetings with a lot of people, said Finance & Operations Director DeeDee Kahring.

A team also held virtual listening sessions with over 300 teachers to hear their concerns and feedback regarding the models.

All of this could change at any time, and the board may have to reconvene for a special session before their scheduled meeting on Aug. 17.

2. WHAT ARE THE THREE MODELS?

Option 1, a hybrid of distance and in-person learning, been broken down into two potential plans.

The first plan would divide students into two groups — Group A would attend school in person on Monday and Thursday, for example, while Group B would attend Tuesday and Friday. When a group is not physically in school, they will use distance learning.

Wednesdays, however, would have distance learning for all students, while teachers hold a Professional Learning Communities (PLC) Day, where staff can regroup, reassess and plan. It also allows for an extra full day to clean facilities.

The second plan would have each group come to school two days in a row instead of alternating — Group A would attend Monday and Tuesday, Group B would attend Thursday and Friday, and Wednesday would be a PLC day. Students would continue using distance learning on days they are not physically present.

Option 2, “Distance learning 2.0,” will be opt-in for all families if it isn’t already the default. The district will learn from their experience in the spring to make the model more efficient and consistent, said Assistant Superintendent Erin Rathke.

Option 3, In-person learning, while still possible, would presumably look very different in the fall. Students and staff would return to the classroom five days a week with enhanced cleaning, safety and distancing protocols.

“If we come back in person, it’s not going to be business as usual. Our students will be coming back differently, with some challenges, some feelings, some experiences. We are going to have to be thoughtful in what we’re doing to prepare and support teachers and students,” Rathke said.

All models were put through seven “lenses”: equity, transportation, health and safety, teacher engagement, student engagement, consistency and learning. The district is working on plans for students who require home visits or other special attention, Kahring added.

3. WHAT ONLINE TOOLS WILL THE DISTRICT USE?

Google Classroom will be the main program in all of the potential models. Though teachers, parents and students may be unfamiliar with the program, digital coaches are working on a way to provide support, Rathke said.

The district also built a community engagement website, providing an overview of the models while creating a centralized hub for feedback, said Communications Director Celi Haga. It will be launching this week.

4. WHAT SAFETY MEASURES WILL BE ENACTED?

The school will be cleaned throughout the day. Bell times will be modified to allow for more efficient routing — for example, Chanhassen High School will start 15 minutes earlier while Victoria Elementary will operate 15 minutes later.

Transportation will also be adjusted. Instead of students switching to a different bus or heading to a friend’s house, they must go directly home. Parents will have a set place to pick up and drop off their children to limit exposure.

MyPillow has donated 2,000 cloth face coverings for staff and the school will provide staff with a clear face shield. If Gov. Walz’s statewide mask mandate is still in place in the fall, masks will be required.

5. HOW IS THE DISTRICT COLLECTING FEEDBACK?

Lots of surveys. A “return to work” survey is asking staff members for their general questions and concerns, along with determining how many staff are considered “high-risk.” The results were collected July 24.

Another survey was sent to parents. The teams will reconvene to discuss teacher and family feedback in late July and early August, then hold district-wide Zoom and in-person meetings to provide information and answer questions, Haga said.

The district previously sent distance learning surveys to parents, students and staff in April and June and received thousands of responses, later meeting to assess the feedback and modify plans.

But no matter how much feedback is collected or how many plans are made, everything could change in a day. Creating consistency and pivoting quickly will be essential, Rathke added.

“This is going to be an impossible, impossible task, but it’s going to be an impossibility shared by everyone across the state,” School Board member Tim Klein said.

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