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Local school districts preparing for fall learning - both in-person and online

Updated: Jul. 29, 2020 at 8:03 PM CDT
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) will announce their decision on what returning to school this fall actually means — in-person learning, distance learning, or a hybrid model of the two.

On Thursday afternoon, school districts across Minnesota will have a much better idea of what the start of the school year will look like.

If students do return to classrooms, either full-time or a few days a week, students at Kennedy Elementary School and primary schools district-wide can expect to spend more time in one classroom.

“Lunch will be served in the classroom under either one of the in-school models,” Mankato Area Public Schools Facilities Director Scott Hogen said. “Art will be in the classroom, music in the classroom. Those teachers will come to each class and work with the kids.”

MAPS students in grades 6 through 12 can also expect to switch rooms less often.

The Minnesota Department of Health says classroom desks should be six feet apart, or as far as possible, which means some students might be learning in other rooms throughout the school.

“In the hybrid model, there is the possibility that we’ll need to utilize gyms, cafeterias, art rooms, music rooms as classroom space,” Hogen added. “Because instead of being able to have 22, 24, 26 kids in a classroom, in this hybrid model, we’re down to 18 students, some rooms are as low as 15. Just depends on the square footage of the space.”

In September, all MAPS schools will use the same learning delivery method, while giving any student the option to continue with distance learning full-time. But depending on coronavirus case trends, individual schools may take different paths throughout the year.

“It might be that one of our schools in the district has some high levels of COVID, and so we decide to put that school on distanced learning, while other buildings the students are coming to us whether in the hybrid model or the in-person model,” explained Hogen.

While the fate of the school year is still undecided, Hogen says staff and faculty are eager to be with their students.

“Everyone is so supportive. Our custodial, our food service, paras, teachers, administrators. We’re all here to support those kids. I know our teachers want to see their kids again. It was very difficult to leave this spring without seeing their kids on the last day of school.”

Across town, Loyola Catholic School anticipates most of their student body back for in-person classes this school year while giving them the choice to go the distance learning route if they choose.

Principal and School Leader Adam Bemmels anticipates a small percentage choosing to go virtual, but understands everybody is in a different place with COVID-19.

The school will be following recommendations from the Diocese of Winona/Rochester, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and will be listening in closely to what the state and Department of Education have to say on Thursday.

“Education, in my mind, is essential. Education in person for the majority of our students, a majority of our society is essential,” Bemmels said. “I think that’s where we thrive, where our community thrives and I think that’s what we are all looking forward to, but we want to do that in a safe and strategic manner.”

The school also received input from parents and staff via surveys from the district and the Diocese and will be forming a concrete plan for in-person learning in the coming weeks.

The Star Tribune is reporting the state’s biggest district, Minneapolis Public Schools, announced Tuesday night it will start the next school year with a hybrid model that school leaders are calling “distance learning with supports.”

That means all instruction is remote, but school buildings will be open for one-on-one tutoring, technology and mental health support for students.

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