Community members gathered in numbers to hear the first draft of Alexandria school's reopening plan for the fall regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
Superintendent Rick Sansted walked through the tentative plan for in-person learning in the fall. The document can also be found on the district's website under the COVID-19 tab.
The reopening plan currently aligns with the guidance and information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota's current executive orders.
The board would like to ensure that sick students, faculty and visitors stay home. Even if students aren't sick with COVID-19, the district aims to prioritize the health of students and their peers over everything else.
If a student demonstrates symptoms of COVID-19, they are required to stay home and contact the COVID-line. Students may be absent from school until they meet the return-to-school standards. Parents of students who test positive for COVID-19 should contact the school's health office upon receiving test results. Any staff confirmed to have COVID-19 will follow state Health Department guidance.
On the subject of masking, which has caused the most debate among attending community members, Alexandria schools will encourage non-vaccinated students to wear face coverings. The schools will continue to provide masks. Those who are not vaccinated will be encouraged to social distance.
Classroom seating will be configured with recommended space between students. Earlier this spring, the district moved seating from 6-feet apart to 3-feet. Sansted said it was a welcomed change in classrooms.
Similar hygiene measures from the 2020-21 school year will be implemented in the fall. Employee and student workstations will be cleaned regularly. The use of reusable water bottles will be encouraged. The district's food service department will enforce processes recommended by the state Health Department, the Minnesota Department of Education and the Food and Drug Administration.
Regarding vaccinations, information will be provided by the Minnesota Department of Health and local public health officials will be communicated to families as needed.
District 206 encourages parents and community members to give input on the first draft in an email system. Directions for providing online feedback can be found under the same COVID-19 tab at www.alexschools.org.
At the May meeting, the crowd of community members spoke in the "Delegations and Individuals" portion of the meeting to express concern about the future face-covering and potential vaccine requirements. After over an hour of discussion, the group left looking forward to a public forum.
While presenting the reopening plan, there were vocal frustrations from the crowd. Stansted empathized with the one audience member who felt like an emailing system for feedback wasn't doing enough.
Sansted suggested the conversation around the topic resume at a public forum instead of a board meeting. He said they would aim to hold a meeting in a larger venue in early July where community members can give feedback, and changes to the plan could be made on the fly.
Similar to the May meeting, a handful of community members voiced the same frustrations surrounding the district's COVID-19 protocols.
One of the speakers was State Rep. Mary Franson, who spoke about her children in the school district. She talked about how COVID-19 has impacted mental health and what she, and the rest of the community members in attendance, want from the school board.
"As a lawmaker, I don't feel that it is appropriate for me to come in to entice the school board to move in a different direction," Franson said publicly at the school board meeting. "I expect to know where (the school board members) stand on each and every one of these issues. … We are lucky if our students will sit in front of their computers for five more minutes to do school work. Something has got to give for these kids."