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Classrooms will remain empty across District 112 in secondary buildings to start the 2020-21 school year.

Eastern Carver County Schools announced Aug. 11 for grades 9-12 the three high schools will start the school year learning in a full-time Distance Learning 2.0 model, with opportunities for in-person learning for students needing additional supports.

The big question on everyone's mind is why are elementary students going four days a week in-person, middle school students are using a two-day in-person hybrid, but high school students aren't allowed in school?

"We are really trying to highlight this is how we are starting, and how we don't really think this is how we'll finish. We want to be as transparent as possible. That is what our families are sharing with us. We just need more time at the high school level. We are learning across the state our high schools need more time," District 112 Assistant Superintendent Erin Rathke said.

Chaska and Chanhassen high schools, even at 50 percent hybrid capacity, would have around 800 students in the building each day. A larger number than any elementary or middle school hybrid scenario.

"There are some logistical challenges that our principals, building leaders and our teachers who have been on summer vacation that need to help us think about how we can make it work," Rathke said.

Rathke and Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams meet daily with Carver County health officials. The agreement is the older the student, the exposure rate increases. While high school students can socially distance better, the transmission of the virus is more likely at their age.

Rathke also acknowledged staffing issues at the high school level.

"We have 25 staff asking for accommodations. We had 17.9 (full-time equivalent) positions cut at the high school level last year because of the failed referendum. When thinking about course requirements -- these are credit bearing, graduation requirement classes. We do not want to come out and it not go well academically. Safety, health and education are our priorities. We know Eastern Carver County families expect a personalized, excellent, rigorous education, and we just want to take some more time so we get it right," Rathke said.

District 112 also believes a hybrid model at the secondary level is a challenging task versus in other buildings.

YOU ASKED, THEY ANSWERED

Q: Exactly how is distance learning different from spring?

A:"We keep trying to talk about what was spring. Spring was not distance learning. Internally we're calling that crisis teaching." - Rathke

Shared with families is:

Distance Learning 2.0 builds on the model we started in the spring of 2020. Students will learn remotely using district provided technology devices along with other age appropriate learning resources. Teachers will provide a variety of high quality activities along with opportunities for collaboration with peers.

Parent, student, and teacher feedback from the spring distance learning has informed enhancements to our distance learning plans. Increased focus on student-teacher engagement, consistent expectations and schedules, open communication, and technology supports will be cornerstones of Distance Learning 2.0.

Q: How are classes at the Co-op working with distance learning? Auto Mechanics and Construction Tools are hard to complete doing distance learning.

A: "We have a schedule on our website, a daily schedule, it's a block schedule, that will provide support for our kids not only in hybrid, but in distance learning.

"We are going to start in distance learning, but we are going to provide opportunities for small groups, interventions, our WIN time -- kids that might need to come in from small groups for more support -- labs, to come in. Some of those hands-on classes are the ones that are challenging. Even if we are in-person, band will have to be different. MDE/MDH just came out with new guidelines, how social distant each person must be, and it's bigger than six feet. With the gift of time we're going to have think through the minutia of that. With physical education teachers, with band and music orchestra, instrument teachers, shop, media specialist courses. Those are the things we still need to iron out and plan for." - Rathke

Q: Will we have access to drop classes that we feel we can’t do online as successfully as we could in the classroom? Example: AP classes and advanced/accelerated courses.

A: "We'll follow protocol that are already in place at the high schools. We're all in a flexible, creative mindset. The traditional approach to education can't be followed in COVID. We're in a pandemic and nobody has experienced that as educators. I know our teachers are committed to kids to work with them as needed to make sure they're successful. We're going to have to be creative with our AP kids. In fact, all of our kids in Online Academy." - Rathke

"We are encouraging our high school students to advocate for themselves and involve their parents. We have supportive counselors and we want to make sure the schedule our students have is rigorous but something they can achieve. If they are finding out it is getting really difficult we want to be there for them, support them along the way." - Sayles-Adams

Q: What are options for supporting the mental health of high school students? Can they access counselors via appointments?

A: "Our counselors and social workers have been working on social and emotional learning lessons to prepare at appropriate levels for our kids. It starts with our workers teaching the little kids why is masking important. It is part of the social stories, the lessons they create, to where the social and emotional piece is embedded and is part of the work we do in the classroom."

"We certainly will deliver mental health support for our students. It's something we've talked about frequently. It's clearly something everyone is concerned about. We know there's been trauma, we know there's been loss, we know there's been grief among our students and our staff. Our counselors and social workers are skilled to be able to support our kids in that way and provide support for our students." - Rathke

Q: Courses like AP classes are unique. Seems it would be a challenge to staff the two separate options in some cases. I know I'd want experienced teachers for some courses.

A: For many of these speciality classes, we many not have enrollment numbers for an online and in-person course. In these instances those in the online track will participate remotely with classmates who are in-person.

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