Osakis Voices column: Schools plan for three scenarios this fall
Like many of you, I’m frustrated with the lack of readily available guidance in a timely manner from the Minnesota Department of Education.
By Randy Bergquist, Osakis Public Schools superintendent
What will Osakis Public Schools look like for the start of the 2020-2021 school year?
This question I’m sure is on the minds of everyone, including myself. It’s safe to say from my perspective, COVID-19 was devastating from so many angles. I went into education to be around kids. Like many of you, I’m frustrated with the lack of readily available guidance in a timely manner from the Minnesota Department of Education.
On June 18, 2020 the Minnesota Department of Education finally came out with “Guidance for Minnesota Public Schools: 2020-2021 School Year Planning.” I would like to highlight some of the information presented in this 100 page document. The three planning scenarios for 2020-2021 are:
In-person learning for all students. In this planning scenario, schools should create as much space between students and teachers as is feasible during the day, but will not be held strictly to enforcing six feet of social distance during primary instructional time in the classroom. This scenario may be implemented assuming state COVID-19 metrics continue to stabilize and/or improve.
Hybrid learning with strict social distancing and capacity limits. Hybrid learning is commonly used to describe classes in which some traditional face-to-face instruction has been replaced by distance learning activities. A hybrid class is designed to integrate face-to-face and distance learning activities so that they reinforce, complement, and elaborate on one another, instead of treating the online component as an add-on or duplicate of what is taught in the classroom. In this planning scenario, schools must limit the overall number of people in school facilities and on transportation vehicles to 50% maximum occupancy. Sufficient social distancing with at least six feet between people must occur at all times. This scenario may be implemented if COVID-19 metrics worsen at the local, regional, or statewide level. This scenario may also be implemented within a school if they experience clusters of cases within a classroom or the school.
Distance learning only. Students engaging in distance learning have access to appropriate educational materials and receive daily interaction with their licensed teacher. It is important to note that distance learning does not always mean e-learning or online learning. It is critical to provide this learning in a format that can be equitably accessed by all students. This scenario may be implemented if local, regional, or statewide COVID-19 metrics worsen significantly enough to require the suspension of in-person learning.
Preparation for the start of the 2020-2021 school year includes contingency planning for the possibility of future emergency, short-notice school in-person capacity reductions or school building closures. The three scenarios must include a focus on the continuity of teaching and learning and all key functions of your school district. It is possible all three contingency plans could be used during the 2020-2021 school year.
In a nutshell, we will be meeting as a committee (teachers, administration, community members and school board) in the near future to plan for the possibility of all three phases. The Minnesota Department of Education did say they would try to make a final decision by July 27, 2020 regarding what the start of school will look like. I am hoping we will start the 2020-2021 school year in-person because I went into education to be around students and help them succeed in whatever they choose for their future.
Osakis Voices is a rotating column written by community leaders who share their thoughts in their field of expertise.