Northfield Public Schools preschoolers and K-2 students are slated to return to in-person learning Monday, Jan. 19, with older youth expected in a hybrid option by early February.

The announcement, made by Superintendent Matt Hillmann Friday, came a couple days after Gov. Tim Walz prioritized the return of elementary children in submitting a similar plan for schools across the state. Any learning model changes, made based in part to county COVID-19 infection numbers, no longer pertain to elementary schools.

Under the district’s plan, distance learning for those students will continue from Jan. 4-13. After that, no school is scheduled from Jan. 14-15 so teachers can plan for the return of K-2 students. Students in third to fifth grades are scheduled to return to exclusively in-person learning Feb. 1. Students in those grades won’t have school from Jan. 27-29 so those teachers can prepare.

Northfield Middle School, High School and Area Learning Center students are preliminarily slated to continue distance learning from Jan. 4-28 before resuming hybrid learning Feb. 2. However, those plans also rest on the progression of the virus as measured by Rice County Public Health. The state recommends exclusive distance learning for school districts with infection rates above 50 per 10,000 residents. Rice County’s infection rate per 10,000 residents from Nov. 29-Dec. 12 was 102.94. Northfield Public Schools has been operating in a distance learning format since late last month after there were significant increases in virus numbers locally and throughout Minnesota.

For Northfield Community Education, facility rentals are slated to resume Jan. 4 for local youth athletic associations who have existing approved safety plans on file. Such a return will be phased with smaller groups. In-person recreation programs will also resume Jan. 4. In-person enrichment programs are set to begin Feb. 1.

“The purpose of this timeline is to return students to in-person or hybrid learning in an intentional and safe manner,” Hillmann noted. “It prioritizes the in-person instruction for our youngest learners.”

The Minnesota Department of Education requires school staff to wear face masks and face shields in the building and students need to wear face masks while participating in physical education. Staff will have the chance to take a free COVID-19 test every two weeks.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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