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Information about elementary learning model shift; thoughts about winter break

Dear caregivers to our valued students:

As promised, I’m writing to provide additional information regarding our plan to bring early childhood and elementary students back for in-person learning on a phased-in basis, beginning Jan. 19. I also want to share some thoughts as we look forward to winter break.

Preparing to return our youngest learners to school buildings

I invite you to review the updated Minnesota Safe Learning Plan and watch my presentation to the school board; I’ll summarize key highlights below. Note: this section does not apply to DLA students who chose a year-long remote learning program.

Jan. 4: All students return from winter break in distance learning model. 

Jan. 13-15: No school for early childhood through grade 5 (Except for DLA students, who will still report to school on these days)

There will be no school for early childhood through grade 5 on January 13, 14 & 15, to provide staff time to prepare for students’ physical return to buildings. All other grades will report to school those days.

Starting Tuesday, Jan. 19

  • Early childhood students will participate in in-person classes according to their assigned schedule.
  • Students in kindergarten through grade 2 will return to school full-time (5 days/week) and in person. 
  • Bus transportation will resume; Kidstop before and after-school care will resume for these students.
  • Emergency child care:
    • Remains available for grades 3-5 until Jan. 29. 
    • Will no longer be available effective Feb. 1. 

Starting Monday, Feb. 1

  • Students in grades 3-5 will return to school full-time (5 days/week) and in person.
  • Bus transportation will resume (review your child’s busing information in ParentVUE); Kidstop before and after-school care will resume for these students.

Secondary students will remain in distance learning until further notice. 

Precautions to help keep students and staff safe

All early childhood through elementary schools will continue to comply with state health and safety guidance, including implementing school safety plans, requiring face coverings (specific exemptions are allowed), encouraging handwashing/use of hand sanitizer, and limiting visitors to buildings. New changes to note:

  • School staff will be required to wear face masks and face shields. 
  • Staff will have access to self-administered COVID-19 saliva tests every two weeks.
  • The elementary social distancing recommendation has been reduced. Classrooms will be arranged in pods. Clear barriers will be installed where needed.

What if I want my elementary child to remain in distance learning?

The process for applying to the Distance Learning Academy is described here.

Thoughts about winter break

As I look forward to winter break, I’m thinking about everything we’ve dealt with since last March, when the COVID-19 pandemic “got real”:

  • As caregivers, you suddenly became teachers, and you’ve been stretched in ways you never before imagined as you managed your own work responsibilities while also supervising your child’s education.
  • You have seen your child’s teachers and support staff create completely new ways of working as they adjusted to new learning models and health and safety protocols. 
  • You have supported our staff even as you faced new and difficult challenges in providing your child’s education.
  • You have been patient and understanding, extending us tremendous grace as we responded to the immediate crisis last spring and then reinvented how to do school for an entire school year amid evolving pandemic circumstances and changing state directives.

As I think about all we have gone through in the past 9 months, I want each of you to know the following:

  • I am grateful for all the extra effort you have invested in your child’s education. You have done things you never expected to do to support your children, and I’m confident your child will never forget what you’ve done.
  • You have been outstanding partners with your child’s teachers and school. You have shown remarkable support, resilience and commitment. 
  • We’ve always said “You are your child’s most important teacher.” This year, that statement could not be any more true. You have been heroes, both to your children and to our staff, and your partnership is greatly appreciated. 

I also want to share one news item regarding next school year: If your child is interested in a fully online learning environment, please watch for information next week about how to apply to our new fully online school, which will launch next fall as “279 Online.” The current Distance Learning Academy will conclude operations at the end of this school year, to be followed by the 279 Online school.

As we look forward to winter break, I hope you and your family have the opportunity to rest, rejuvenate, and just enjoy being together. I wish you health and happiness in the new year, and I look forward to reconnecting with you in 2021.

Respectfully,

Cory McIntyre

Superintendent

Superintendent Cory McIntyre