As a result of an increase in Goodhue County’s 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents from 19 to 34, Kenyon-Wanamingo Schools made some shifts in its learning models for all students.

In a Nov. 5 update to parents and guardians, K-W Superintendent Bryan Boysen said as numbers in the county continue to climb, the district would be switching to a phase 4 learning model, which began last week.

“We want to value the relationships you have with your classroom teachers and the best way to accomplish this is by using the hybrid model of group A and B days,” said Boysen. “We have experienced an increase in staff and students absent from school because of close contact and positive cases. In the past two weeks, we have experienced five positive cases.”

Phase 4 indicates hybrid learning for prekindergarten through sixth grade and distance learning for seventh through 12th grades. Wednesday was a distance learning day for K-12 and in-person for preschool, while elementary and middle school students begin their first day of hybrid learning (a mix of in-person and distance learning days) Thursday as high school students remain in distance learning. Since the beginning of the school year, the district has been operating in a phase 2 learning model where pre-K to sixth graders learned in-person, and seven through 12th graders learned in a hybrid model.

High School Principal Matt Ryan said in a letter to parents and students that Goodhue County Public Health was predicting the 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents would increase again last Thursday.

“We have been impacted in the middle/high school with an increasing number of students and staff who have had positive tests or have needed to be quarantined due to being a close contact,” Ryan wrote. “This has put a significant strain on classroom coverage and supervision especially due to the challenges of getting substitute teachers.”

The 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents number is now at 65 and is also expected to continue increasing.

In an update to the K-W community Friday, Nov. 13, Boysen clarified decision making in changing learning models and other alterations to school activities.

“These decisions are made with careful analysis of local school community metrics, county COVID-19 case rate number, and MDE recommendations,” said Boysen. “We as a school district do have some autonomy in making our local decision based on all of the above information while being guided with recommendations. The recommendations from MDE are just that, recommendations.”

He said the district’s goal is to remain in the phase 4 learning model with activities through Nov. 24. Through a continuation of monitoring data daily, Boysen said the district is planning to move to a phase 5 learning model for K-12 beginning Nov. 30.

“This means all students will be in a distance learning model. Grades 7-12 will continue with the distance learning plan they are currently working in,” said Boysen. “What this looks like for K-6 students will vary by grade level and further details will be sent to…your student’s teacher by Thanksgiving break. You have the choice to move your student to flex learning prior to the 30th if this is the right choice for you.”

As a result of multiple students asking if the district will be in distance learning for the rest of the year, Ryan said, “I of course don’t know that answer for sure, but no, I don’t think we will be doing distance learning for the rest of the school year and I’m hopeful we can return to a hybrid model or in-person model as soon as the COVID data allows that to happen in a safe way!”

Regionally, Faribault Public Schools announced Wednesday, Nov. 11 a shift to distance learning starting Nov. 19 and lasting until at least Jan 4.

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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