Celi Haga, Director of Communications for Eastern Carver County Schools, first heard the reports on social media the night of Dec. 15. Governor Walz's speech the following day was going to include a push to re-open elementary schools.
Questions started coming in. Haga, and the rest of the District staff, could only do what everyone else across the state of Minnesota was doing, watch the Governor's address on Dec. 16.
"(We were) anxious to learn about any changes to guidance about when and how our students might return to in-person learning in the weeks ahead. We were already hard at work on plans to begin bringing back smaller groups of students for in-person support in January. We will now adjust those plans to reflect the new guidance," said an email from Superintendent Lisa Sayles Adams to the District staff.
The current Executive Order allows districts to bring in small groups of students at every grade level for in-person support and interventions.
The updated Safe Return to Learn plan allows districts to consider a return to in-person learning for elementary learners starting Jan. 18, so long as increased health and safety protocols are in place.
In the Dec. 16 press conference, Deputy Education Commissioner Heather Mueller said the state will start testing school staff every other week starting Jan. 4.
The guidance allows for districts to bring back no more than three grades at a time over any two-week period while monitoring positive cases and quarantines in school buildings.
Middle and high school students will continue to follow the existing framework and will stay in distance learning for now. Athletics and activities, though, may resume in-person practices on Jan. 4, 2021.
"Our staff is now working through the revised guidance to make sure we have the operational and instructional pieces in place to begin implementation of a safe and thoughtful reopening plan for our elementary schools. That is going to take some time. I know our patience is stretched. I know that these decisions have very real implications on our community’s home and work situations. I know we want our students back in school," Sayles Adams said in the email.
Patience is the key word District staff are asking for some time.
Sayles Adams said the District are committed to updating the community by Wednesday, Dec. 23 about what the next steps and timeline will look like for our district.