The Alexandria School Board on Monday, Aug. 17, approved its plan for district schools to return to the classrooms for the 2020-21 school year.

Students in K-5 classes will be back in the classroom full time while middle and high school classes will start with a hybrid model in a three-week trial period. Students will be split into two groups and go to in-person classes every other day.

After the first three weeks, the district will evaluate the current safety practices, community data, staff feedback, student feedback and family feedback. From there, the district will provide a plan for the following weeks. Options include returning to in-person classes on Sept. 28, continue with the same model for another 14-day period or reevaluating for future adjustments.

K-5 in-person classes

Families with elementary students that didn’t choose the distance learning option provided by the district will send their students to in-person classes. There will be a requirement for face coverings, staggered arrival and dismissal times and an effort to keep students safe through consistent learning groups.

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Lunch will occur in the classrooms, but the district encourages teachers to take the kids outside for movement and routine breaks. The schools will also follow safe clearing practices provided by the Center for Disease Control and the Minnesota Department of Health. Families are asked to screen from home in addition to screening questions at the start of each school day.

6-12 ‘Safe Start’ model

The middle and high school students who opted to take in-person classes will start with what the district calls the Safe Start model.

Kids with last names starting with A-K will be in group “A” while group “B” last names begin with L-Z. Families with different last names will be put in the same group. Starting the Tuesday after Labor Day, group “A” will go to school in-person while group “B” will take classes from home. Each day the students will alternate between in-person classes and work from home.

Like the elementary schools, students will be required to wear masks and follow the same screening procedures. Students attending school from home will be in a virtual classroom during their class times with the use of webcams and Google Meet. Structures and schedules will be consistent either at home or in school.

Face coverings and masks, transportation

Face coverings will be required by everybody in the Alexandria Public School buildings and on busses. Exceptions to the mask use are determined on an individual basis, based on medical, developmental or behavioral health needs.

The district will distribute a cloth face mask to each student and staff member. A face covering can include a paper or disposable mask, cloth mask, neck gaiter, scarf, bandanna or a religious face covering. Masks must cover the mouth or nose completely. Alternatives, such as clear face shields, can be considered for those with health conditions or situations where wearing a mask is problematic.

Masks will be required for all drivers and all students on the buses ages 6-and-older. Students will board the busses starting from the back, and fill to the front as much as possible. Students are only allowed to share a seat if they are from the same household. Parents and guardians of students eligible for bus transportation should indicate if they plan to use school vehicles or if they will self-transport.

Reporting of symptoms and exposure, visitors

Parents are responsible for screening of symptoms in students or possible COVID-19 exposure.

Students will be asked if they have any symptoms of the COVID-19 virus at the start of the day and will be reminded of what symptoms include. Each building will have designated isolation spaces for suspected cases. Symptomatic individuals will be immediately isolated and sent home.

Only students and staff will be allowed inside school buildings. Visitors will be limited to only accessing the commons, main entrance and office areas. While indoors, face coverings are required for all persons entering the building. Visitors must verify that they are free of COVID-19 symptoms. Any communication that can be conducted electronically should be done to limit the number of people inside school buildings.

Buildings and classroom use

Lockers will not be used to store school supplies for secondary students. Students must carry materials in a backpack or a bag to reduce congregating in the hallways. Lockers will be used in the winter months to store coats, snow pants and other winter items. The district encourages students to bring a labeled water bottle as drinking fountains will only be permitted to fill personal containers.

Distance learning

Students taking part in distance learning will have a different experience from last spring. The district’s survey data listed areas of improvement that include more face-to-face and live interactions on Google Meet, more synchronous scheduling, more structure to the day and common templates within the SeeSaw and Schoology programs. This will help provide students and parents with a consistent view.