Every phone call, every email, every question from families across Eastern Carver County was heard. Nothing was left off the table in discussing the road ahead in terms of in-person, hybrid or distance learning in District 112.
In the end, three different learning models will be used for the beginning of the 2020-21 school year in September.
- Elementary school students in grades K-5 will resume school four days a week, with all teachers and children out of the building on Wednesdays in distance learning.
- Middle school students in grades 6-8 will be placed into two groups, cohorts A and B, and will be in-person in school twice a week either Monday-Tuesday, or Thursday-Friday, with the other three days in distance learning. Group assignments will be released by Aug. 25.
- High school students in grades 9-12 at the district's three high schools will start the school year in a full distance learning model.
"Families want students back in buildings. Teachers want students back in building. We want students back in building," said new District 112 Assistant Superintendent Erin Rathke.
"I do know that we worked really hard, done a lot of research, done a lot of reading, and put together some really strong frameworks to help our teachers be successful. ... This has been a decision that has many of us not sleeping," she added.
ECCS previously released parent engagement survey results at an Aug. 4 school board workshop meeting. Of the 4,750 completed surveys, 55% felt comfortable sending their child to in-person learning, with a slightly higher number favorable with a hybrid model.
The percentage ranged just a few percentage points between elementary, middle and high school families.
A total of 1,047 responses were interested in fully online option if a return to in-person model was chosen, with an additional 1,072 responses suggesting they may be interested.
New District 112 Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams said the decision was based on feedback from a number of stakeholder groups, listening sessions and data from the Minnesota Department of Health.
As of Aug. 11, Carver County's 14-day case rate per 10,000 people by date of specimen collection is 17.2. That number did allow, based on guidance from the MDH, for elementary in-person, and middle and high school hybrid learning models.
Rathke commended Sayles-Adams for facilitating "thoughtful, compassionate, excellent" discussions throughout the decision process.
Because the data will change week to week, District 112 will monitor overall numbers and trends throughout Carver County and adjust learning models as needed. Rathke said families will be given advance notice of a model pivot unless a certain class, grade, school building, or complete district quarantine is needed.
The plan is to evaluate the learning model on the 8th of each month.
According to Celi Haga, communication director for ECCS, 11% of staff survey responses indicated a request to talk to human resources about a potential accommodation if a return to some form of in-person learning was chosen.
Board Director Lisa Anderson acknowledged the amount of stress all of these models puts on teachers and staff, whether in the building, or teaching from home.
"I would ask that each teacher identify something, and I know this is difficult for them, but something that they can do for themselves for self care and how we can support them in that as well," she said.
ECCS plans to use Wednesdays as needed by teachers. For some it may be additional technology enrichment. For others it may be practicing the best approaches to distance learning.
"Every teacher that I have talked to in Eastern Carver County has said to me, 'I am committed to our students.' I just believe that and so I just have a lot of belief and faith in our teachers and in our leaders," Rathke said.
Rathke acknowledged while a deep cleaning inside the school building will be completed every single day, having no students or staff in buildings on Wednesday will allow for a deeper clean to assure to state-mandated guidelines.
Sayles-Adams, who called teachers "heroes" for what they were able to accomplish for students last spring, called on the community to do its part.
"One thing I would love to flood to our community is really start to work with your children at home about when they should wear their mask. How they should put them on, take them off. Be prepared, we are going to enforce the masking policy; that is an executive order. Talk to your children about how it's a community good. You're not only wearing a mask for you, but you're protecting others, so that's a way there we can all contribute to being a really good school community," she said.
With roughly four weeks until the start of school Sept. 8, Sayles-Adams and Rathke said there are many details still being finalized. Community engagement sessions to hear more about each learning model, and ask questions to district staff, are planned throughout the next week.
Board Director Tim Klein asked the community for "gratitude and grace" as well as patience throughout the process.
Families have through Friday, Aug. 14 to "opt-in" to a 100% online option, ECCS Online Learning Academy, taught by ECCS teachers and following the same standards and learning targets as other learning models.
This fully online option is available to all K-12 students. Families who choose this fully online model for their student must commit to staying with it through Jan. 22 (end of first semester for secondary students).
The ECCS Online Learning Academy will operate independently from the other learning models, but reporting (student enrollment, grades, transcript) will still happen through the student boundary/home school.
Students can expect a combination of live online instruction by their teacher, independent work, online check-ins and recorded instructions, lessons and tutorials. Students will be expected to participate five days a week with clearly defined student schedules and teacher-directed learning.