ECCS Return to School

Students arrive for the first day of school in September 2020 at Jonathan Elementary in Chaska. Assistant superintendent Erin Rathke called the January-February re-opening of schools as a “third first day of school.”

Monday, Feb. 1, 2021 was the beginning of the first scheduled five-days-a-week in-person learning schedule since March 2020, for students in grades pre-kindergarten to fifth grade in Eastern Carver County Schools.

Students in grades Pre-K through second, as well as K-5 center-based students, were welcomed back into the buildings on Tuesday, Jan. 19 in phase one.

"What we found those first few days were kids are happy, kids are excited to see their friends. We were re-teaching kindergartners where their classrooms were, where their lockers are. It was really our third first day of school," said Erin Rathke, assistant superintendent, at a Jan. 25 school board meeting

Beginning Monday, phase two is underway with the addition of all third, fourth and fifth graders, and with that, elementary schools in District 112 are in-person five days a week. Additionally, Integrated Arts Academy students have returned in a hybrid model, while some small groups of no more than 10 will be permitted in secondary schools.

On Thursday, Feb. 18, students in grades 6-12 will return to in-person learning in the hybrid model. The district will continue to use an AA-BB model with Wednesdays distance learning for all students.

"Our priorities are what continues to drive our decisions when we lean back and have to make tough decisions on behalf of the district," Rathke said. "That is health, safety and quality instruction for all students in each model that we have to participate in, and have participated in this year."

"One thing that will not change is COVID is still here. In the in-person model and hybrid model we have the potential of needing to pivot a classroom, pivot a grade band, pivot a school, pivot a bus. Quarantining, having the experiences we had before Thanksgiving still are here for us and we have to manage that," she added.

Rathke also shared that the district had roughly an 86% retention rate of students and families remaining in the Online Learning Academy versus 14% returning to hybrid/in-person.

All staff members have been provided with a shield, which is highly recommended to be worn, along with a mask. A barrier has also been provided for elementary staff as an added protection for those that are unable to teach at a physical distance.

"I think it is also a good reminder to the whole community, we can put together all these great plans, but we're also each an individual part of this greater family and the more we can control to do that, control exposure and stuff like that, it directly impacts our school. We control what goes on at school, we can't control what goes on outside. When that's brought in, it has serious impact," said Board Chair Dr. Jeff Ross, who implored families and students to work together to keep these current models.


Another layer of safety in school buildings for the re-opening is available saliva testing every other week at each school across the district.

While it is not a requirement, Tara Cliff, health services supervisor for District 112, said it is recommended for staff that has not tested positive within the last 90 days.

Saliva testing will begin two weeks after students enter the building, so elementary staff first started Feb. 1. The free service is being coordinated through Vault Health. The District will not receive results of the test, only the participants.

"It is the employee's responsibility, as it has been all school year, to let the building's school nurse know if it happens to be positive," Cliff said.

This is a screening process, Cliff said. Those that are experiencing symptoms to COVID should remain at home, and be tested off-site.

Included in the screening are all building workers or those with ties to the building, such as bud drivers.

Cliff said each building has three leaders that will administer the program. These staff members have been provided medical-grade personal protection equipment. Results will be returned within 72 hours.

Staff that test positive will need to quarantine for 14 days.

"There's been a lot of planning to go into this. I really feel after the first time it will be an easy-run process," Cliff said.