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Along with the added guidelines school districts need to follow, this school year will look unlike any other. Although masks are mandatory for teachers and students, inside of the classrooms, schools will not have to enforce 6 feet of social distancing during instruction. Pictured is Renee Clawiter, special education paraprofessional at Kenyon-Wanamingo Schools, working with second grade students during class last school year. (Leader file photo)

With students in grades seven through 12 expected to return to school Sept. 8 and those in kindergarten through sixth grade set to start Sept. 10, Kenyon-Wanamingo School’s administrators, staff and providers are working diligently to plan for the unknowns the fall semester may bring.

Over the last several weeks, Superintendent Bryan Boysen has been immersed in the world of COVID-19. Typically, the district has six to seven months to plan for the upcoming school year, instead of just two weeks, which has taken a toll on all involved.

“It’s stressful for teachers, parents and everybody,” Boysen said in his Aug. 24 K-W School Board report. “We implemented a playbook for our staff if they have any questions.”

In addition to Boysen’s report, K-W High School Principal Matt Ryan said he is “very” excited about the new staff K-W is adding this year. As staff are set to return this week, Ryan notes that teachers have already been working hard to prepare to start the school year with different “looks and feels” than they are used to. From an enrollment standpoint, Ryan says some families are choosing the Family Flex Learning plan.

The Family Flex Option is offered for enrolled students who may be medically vulnerable or otherwise unable or unwilling to return to in-person or hybrid learning. This means that regardless of the implemented plan this fall or at any time during 2020-21, some families may choose to continue distance learning due to health reasons or preference.

In this plan, students follow the same calendar and instructional hours as students in school. Attendance will be taken once per day with daily interaction by a licensed teacher via live interactive video calls, instructional management sites such as Google Classroom, email exchanges and/or phone calls. Each hour of planned instruction and participation generates one hour of attendance and the curriculum will follow the same academic standards and pacing. Those in need of support for special education and social emotional learning will be provided aid by the school.

Safe Learning Plan

As of Aug. 24, enrollment was 728 for grades kindergarten through 12th grade, down 21 from last year. Prekindergarten enrollment has seen a notable decrease of almost half at 36, compared to the 60 students last year. The numbers, Boysen says, fluctuate from year to year.

With officials keeping a close eye on Goodhue County’s case numbers, Boysen says the district’s COVID-regional contact is based out of the Southeast Service Coop in Rochester. Last week’s 14-day case rate per 10,000 people for Goodhue County was just over eight, a little over three more than the week prior. As of Aug. 27, the number crept up to 9.3. If the number increases to 10 or higher, the district would be required to shift to phase 2. Given the trend in the data over the past three weeks, the district has decided to take a proactive approach and make the decision to begin the year at K-W in phase 2, meaning grades seven through 12 will be switched to a hybrid learning model, while preK through sixth graders continue plans for in-person learning.

Phase 2 of K-W’s Safe Learning Plan states that in a hybrid learning model, students participate in a combination of face-to-face instruction at school and distance learning from home. Instruction during face-to-face learning will be reinforced, enriched and complemented by distance learning instruction. They would operate on an A/B schedule each hybrid learning week, where students are assigned to either the A or B group for in-person learning two days a week and distance learning three days of the week. Each group flip flops schedules to allow extra time in between groups for teacher preparation, supplemental staff development, collaborative team/content time and PLCs.

Although the high school won’t hold its traditional open house, the building will still be open for those interested in getting their schedule, walking their schedule, finding classes and giving parents and students a chance to familiarize themselves with the building on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

“We still want to offer the opportunity to them so they can be as ready as they can be for the first day,” said Ryan. “I appreciate everyone’s flexibility and attitude as we prepare for the school year.”

Boysen added, “This is all new to everybody. I wouldn’t be able to do my job if it wasn’t for Matt and the rest of the team. We are making decisions rather quickly, but everyone appreciates and is understanding of what we are doing. When people come into my office and first ask me how I’m doing, it tells me about the caring and compassion we have here.”

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128 or follow her on Twitter @apgmichelle. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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