Cathy Stark

Superintendent Bryan Boysen predicts the first couple of weeks of school will look different than previous years, in more ways than one. However, it is vital for staff to focus on building relationships with students and helping them re-learn basic classroom expectations with the new guidelines in place. (Leader file photo)

Since Minnesota school districts received direction from state officials last, districts have been working to prepare plans for the learning model that best suits each county.

Kenyon-Wanamingo schools officials have been monitoring the data received from a parent/guardian survey, using guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education and data from Goodhue County to determine a safe learning model for the return to school this fall. Based on the current COVID-19 case rate for Goodhue County, K-W will begin planning for a phase 1 reopening plan (in-person for all students) this fall, though it will need to closely monitor the data every two weeks. If the numbers change and K-W needs to switch to another phase, that information would come from the district office.

At the Kenyon-Wanamingo School Board’s Monday work session, K-W Superintendent Bryan Boysen says he hopes to get K-W’s Return to School Plan, a guide numerous district officials have been putting together over the last several weeks, in the hands of parents by Friday. A survey will also go out to parents/guardians then, asking them which model they are choosing for their family.

“This is a living, breathing document, that we are still ironing up, but it’s about 90% completed,” said Boysen. “We are looking at a phase 1 reopening plan, but between now and September, this can change.”

Since the number of cases per 10,000 over 14 days in Goodhue County is from 0 to less than 10, the in-person learning model was chosen. The number of cases over July 12-25 in Goodhue County per 10,000 residents was 3.38. Updated information will be provided from the weeks of July 26-Aug. 8 on Thursday. If the number of cases ranges from 10 to less than 20, the district would switch to phase 2, a combination of in-person learning for preK to sixth grade and hybrid learning for seventh through 12th grade, and move into phase 3, hybrid learning for all students, if cases are found in the 20 to 30 range. In phase 4, a mix of hybrid learning for preK to sixth grade and distance learning for seventh to 12th grade would be chosen with numbers from 30 to less than 50. In situations with over 50 cases, the district would move into phase 5, meaning distance learning for all students.

The three base-learning models include in-person learning where all students return to learning at school, hybrid learning where all students participate in a combination of both face-to-face instruction at school and instruction from home, and distance learning mode where all students receive remote instruction while at home.

Building relationships

Board member James Jarvis asked if K-W has nine cases per 10,000 residents over the last 14 days, would the district stick with the phases drawn out and stay with in-person learning. Boysen said if the case number is between 0-9, they are sticking with phase 1, if it hits 10, they the district would move into phase 2.

Said Boysen,”If that number is between 0-9, we’re sticking with that phase. We want to stay in that phase 1 even if we’re in a nine, because we can at least see the students and get them what they need. At least we can build that relationship, especially since these kids haven’t seen teachers in six months. If we can give them a glimpse of our face, that’s huge.”

Since the district serves children in four different counties, Board member Rod Woock wondered why the district is primarily looking at Goodhue County’s numbers and if they were monitoring the other three counties K-W draws students from: Rice, Dodge and Steele.

Boysen explained that the district is using numbers from the county the district predominantly serves, however if one of those three counties sees a huge, balloon spike, the district would use discretion and meet with a committee to see about a desire change.

Some logistics, like how students will receive meals, will be worked out at a meeting with the school’s food provider Thursday. Boysen says if students are allowed to go to the lunch room, the food cannot be self-serve, and if they will be served lunch in their classroom, everything has to be disposable. Special education is another item that is still evolving with the help of director Amy Buchal and teachers.

“A lot of people are working really hard, there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes heroes,” said Boysen at the work session. “Being new to the district, I am just amazed at the work ethic I am seeing and the passion for doing what’s best for the kids, it’s just amazing, you have a good team here.”

Empowering parents

A family flex option, where families choose for their children to take classes via distance learning, is available for those who may be medically vulnerable or unwilling to return to school. Boysen says those who choose the distance learning options are still expected to log in when school starts and will have a full day, just as if they are in school. How that will be delivered, either through livestreaming or recorded videos, is still being worked out.

Board member Kevin Anderson asked if parents would receive support, similar to a teacher’s manual, as a way to empower parents to help. Boysen says they could certainly utilize paras to assist, and tutors if needed, and thought it was a good point to think about how to empower parents to be “backup quarterbacks” in this situation.

Jarvis asked Boysen what the district’s plan was for responding to children who refuse/cannot wear a mask. Through guidance from MDE, Boysen says the district is instructed to follow the district’s policies on discipline, use discretion, prompt them and do the best they can. Whether the district would find a special classroom for all students to go in, or call parents, is a decision that will be made in the next couple of weeks.

“Students I’ve talked to are willing to be compliant and in talking with the volleyball coaches, they said the players come in wearing masks and know to wipe down the balls. These students are so anxious to get back to school, they are willing to follow protocol to do what they need to do to be there,” said Anderson.

To ease concerns and questions of families, Boysen hopes to have everything in place by parent-teacher conferences, so parents can go home with a bag of items, including four masks per student to get them started, and with some answered questions.

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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