Sunday, March 15, 2020. The day Gov. Tim Walz announced the closure of Minnesota schools due to the worldwide outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Walz asked school districts across the state to temporarily close from Wednesday, March 18 through Friday, March 27, to put in place plans for distance learning in the event a long-term closure is required.
Eastern Carver County Schools District 112 elected to use Monday and Tuesday, March 16-17 as non-student days to help with the preparation of eLearning instruction, to begin as soon as Monday, March 30.
The district was already scheduled to close Monday, March 23-Friday, March 27 for with spring break.
"You'll hear words like unprecedented, uncharted territory. It really is," said District 112 Superintendent Clint Christopher, at Monday's school board meeting. "We want to be prepared, or as prepared as we can be, if there is a longer shutdown."
Christopher was hesitant to suggest any kind of timetable at this point for resumed in-school teaching. "We just don't know. The governor has given us these two weeks to plan for the 'What if?'" he said.
District leadership, more than 30 in total, met throughout the weekend, late into the night on Sunday, to draw up plans for online learning to distribute to staff to start the week.
Christopher described Monday and Tuesday as planning days, with Wednesday, March 18, the real action plan day on how materials and equipment will get to students.
Amy LaDue, Assistant Superintendent for District 112, said Chromebooks are available for all first and second graders. Families can make the choice to use their home computer/device and not a school-issued Chromebook.
Currently, all third- through 12th-graders have been assigned Chromebooks.
For families that need Chromebooks, plans to get them to students are being discussed. One idea may be using school buses to deliver around the district.
Daily meetings have been in place among the district leadership team — personnel all properly spaced out — to plan out every scenario.
WHAT DOES ELEARNING LOOK LIKE?
If the situation occurs that schools need to be closed due to the COVID-19 virus, Eastern Carver County Schools intends to provide instruction to students in all grades via distance learning.
Implementing distance learning will require the full cooperation of students, teachers, and parents to make the instruction and learning meaningful and in compliance with the full expectations of Minnesota Statutes.
It is intended that the distance learning model of delivery will continue to provide students with new learning while sustaining previous learning. Therefore, the goal will be to connect learning to the regular instruction that has been occurring.
According to the district:
- Teachers will focus on essential learning; this is the most critical learning to make things manageable for everyone.
- This does not mean that students will be working on academics for the same duration of time as a face-to-face school day.
- Teachers will focus on setting up routines and structures to support students/families.
- Teachers will strive to provide best practice instruction that meets the needs of all learners to the extent possible.
- Teachers will leverage digital tools students are using as part of their regular instruction (i.e., Google Classroom, Google Docs, apps).
Teachers have or will set up a Google Classroom for their students as a common way to deliver lessons to students.
Christopher, who reiterated that the online learning day would not look like a normal school day, said digital learning coaches have been working with instructional learning coaches to set up a framework of the processes for distance teaching.
The largest challenge is assuring access to all students. LaDue said all teachers have been asked to create a Plan A and a Plan B. In Monday night's family communication, the district asked those without internet access to let them know so they can fully access the situation.
LaDue said the district has a limited amount (14) of "hockey pucks" that can be used for internet access. Comcast is offering families without internet up to two months free of service.
If students in grades kindergarten through second grade don’t have online access, teachers will develop an offline learning plan (reading materials, writing, packet learning, etc.).
School Board Chair Jeffrey Ross relayed that parents and families with questions or concerns to ask them. To reach out to get the correct information. Like with anything right now, patience is needed as the district and nation attempt to break the curve with the virus spread.
Getting meals to those students that rely on them on school days was among the district's early priorities.
Lunches will be provided to district students 18 and under from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, during the shutdown, excluding spring break, at two locations:
- Clover Ridge Elementary: 114000 Hundertmark Road, Chaska
- Riverview Terrace: 300 Ehlers Ave, Chaska
Christopher estimated 150 lunches were served on the first day. He expected that number to increase as the word gets out. The meal costs are coming from the District's "Angel Fund," which holds $15,000.
If a family is unable to get to one of these sites and need lunches, contact District 112 nutrition services at Nutrition@district112.org or 952-556-6150 for delivery options.
Additionally, the district offered free child care for staff Monday through Wednesday during preparation days. Christopher said between 20 and 25 kids were in care. He called the service "critical" to these staff members.
If there is a sustained closure following spring break, necessary building staff such as principals, secretaries, janitorial staff, will have this childcare service available to them.