Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-2021 School Year
Reopening Plans for Dassel-Cokato Schools
On July 30, 2020, Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor Flanagan shared the SAFE LEARNING PLAN with the state of MN. Created by the MN Department of Education and the MN Department of Health this plan outlines three learning scenarios for the coming school year. Located below are descriptions of each and how they will be implemented as either directed by the state or in response to local (community and school-impacted) COVID-19 virus activity.
As part of the Safe Learning Plan, all MN school districts have been assigned to a Regional Support Team which will facilitate communication between the school district and state levels in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case within a school building. These partnerships (local public health departments, the MN Department of Education, the MN Department of Health, and our regional service cooperative- Resource Training and Solutions) will provide support while navigating the impacts of COVID-19 throughout the school year. One of the primary roles of these support teams is to help with the ongoing evaluation of Dassel-Cokato School's current learning model.
SAFE LEARNING PLAN DETAILS
"The decision-making process for determining which model to start the school year should first center on local data that takes into account the viral activity in the surrounding community." Safe Learning Plan, p5. The bi-weekly case rate by county of residence report was created to help school districts monitor ongoing transmission levels at a county-based view. A formula that equates the total cases in the past fourteen days and the county population divided by 10,000 determines the numbers recorded each week. Communities across Minnesota have experienced COVID-19 in different ways, some areas have seen significant viral activity and others (such as Dassel and Cokato) have seen relatively low numbers of cases.
As shown in the Safe Learning Plan's goals, in-person learning is prioritized for elementary learners because research shows the limited transmission of COVID-19 in younger children. That factor, coupled with the significant burden distance learning has on elementary families, enables districts to keep those younger students in-person learning where it is safe and possible. Shifting between models takes into account the county case rate numbers and student ages (grades) and consists of five combinations of recommended policy options. (See Recommended Policy Options Based on 14-day Case Rate Range picture below)
Many factors will be considered when making determinations to transition between models, however, it is impossible to plan for every possible scenario the school district may encounter over the course of the school year. Using the most up-to-date information about COVID-19 and the local impact within our communities, the consultative process will take into account: school-based impact, tracing and isolating close contacts, testing capacity, staffing, and safety protocols.
In general, in-person learning occurs when a community and/or school's viral activity is low. Positive cases may be occurring but can be traced to the source of exposure, close contacts can be identified, and quarantine recommendations exclude potentially contagious people from the school buildings. The shift into hybrid learning assumes that substantial community spread or clusters within are occurring. Higher numbers of cases are occurring but close contacts are still being identified and are quarantining. The focus at this time aims to reduce student capacity and increase health and safety measures to help further mitigate the virus spreading. Should the virus reach a point of having substantial impact with uncontrolled spreading and large scale outbreaks among students and staff, distance learning will be implemented. After a period of time, and consulting with the Regional Support Team, the learning model will transition back into hybrid and then in-person learning as appropriate. (Further details about Hybrid and Distance Learning can be found in subsequent sections below.)
In the event a confirmed COVID-19 case is identified within the school community, Dassel-Cokato Schools will work with our Regional Support Team to determine if the person was on school grounds while infectious and if there were any close contact exposures between students and staff. To preserve in-person learning, whether district-wide in-person or any variation, it is important these determinations are made as quickly as possible. Informing students, staff, and families of close contact exposure, the need to quarantine at home or to seek testing are all important factors that will directly impact our ability to keep students in the classroom. Close contacts are defined as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 48 hours before illness onset until the time the patient is isolated. The MN Department of Health recommends all close contacts seek testing. At no time will testing for COVID-19 occur within the schools.
Dassel-Cokato School's will follow the MDH guidance:
Determining a Safe Learning Model to Start the School Year
School districts consisting of more than one county are directed to use the county with the highest bi-weekly case rate number to inform the learning model. When first announced, on July 30th, the COVID-19 impact of Meeker County's number was low enough to allow in-person learning for all students in grades K-12. However, the impact within Wright County was high enough to dictate in-person learning for grades K-6 and hybrid for grades 7-12. After discussing with both Meeker and Wright County Public Health Departments and an Epidemiologist from the Emerging Infections Unit of the MN Department of Health, it was determined Cokato's local case levels within Wright County supported in-person learning for all grades.
On August 6th, Dassel-Cokato Schools announced the return of all grade levels to begin the 2020-2021 school year. This decision is made possible by the ability to successfully implement safety protocols within several factors including social distancing, face coverings, food services, transportation, school-age care, cleaning and disinfecting, and the ability to offer both in-person and virtual instruction. The decision to shift between learning models will maintain awareness of county-level data through continued review of the bi-weekly case numbers but will center decisions based on the school-level impact of COVOID-19. The bi-weekly county numbers will NOT be the sole determiner.
Virtual Learning: The Charger Way
The Safe Learning Plan instructs districts to provide a distance learning option for families to opt-into regardless of the learning model. This past July a survey was sent to all families in an attempt to gather information regarding parent's feelings about students returning to the classroom this fall. This survey achieved a 67% response rate amongst families and based on the information gathered, we were able to estimate almost 330 students being unable or unwilling to return to in-person learning this fall. Reasons cited included: concern for the student's health, concern for a family member's health, overall concern about COVID-19, and not wanting students to have to wear face coverings as currently required (Executive Order 20-81). Taking into consideration the varied needs of our students and staff, we have worked to create three-learning scenarios as well as a virtual learning opportunity that will carry us through the 2020-2021 school year.
Dassel-Cokato Schools will debut Virtual Learning: The Charger Way as an option for families with students who are unable or uncomfortable returning to school in-person. It is not intended to be a short-term solution but for families whose students are planning to be away from the classroom for an extended period of time. This option keeps pace with the day-to-day instruction being taught in the classroom but is delivered in a virtual/online format.
Virtual Learning: The Charger Way will keep pace with the day-to-day instruction being taught in the classroom but delivered in an online (virtual) format. Each of the learning models, students, and teachers will continue using common learning platforms to provide consistency. Grades K-8 will use Google Classroom and Grades 9-12 will use Schoology. Infinite Campus will be used for daily attendance purposes, assignment tracking, and grading. Parents are able to access Infinite Campus through Parent Portal. Tutorial videos will help provide easy access instructions as well as the Digital Learning Specialists available to students in each building.
The daily schedule is flexible for these students as they are able to access pre-recorded lessons at times convenient to them. Students are expected to keep current with assignments and due dates as the rigor does not change in Virtual Learning. A smooth transition back into the classroom will occur when students are able and ready to do so because they will be at the same academic learning place as their classroom peers.
For more information about Virtual Learning: The Charger Way.