Shortly after hearing the state’s guidelines on back to school plans, the Kenyon-Wanamingo School District began preparing for in-person learning. As the days dwindled closer to the start of school, Goodhue County’s 14-day COVID-19 case rate jumped from five to eight per 10,000 residents, nearing closer to the case rate of 10 that would send the 7-12 grades into a hybrid model, with prekindergarten through sixth grades remaining in-person.

kwhs.jpg

In the lunch room, there is a limit on how many students can sit at a table, and students fill out a piece of paper which keeps track of where each student sits each day, to aid in contact tracing if needed. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

kwhs_1.jpg

Lunch products are pre-packaged to eliminate students repeatedly touching the same utensils. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

District officials decided to err on the side of caution and start the school year off in a hybrid model for high school students, and in-person for the remaining grades. To operate in a safe environment, an array of guidelines and protocols were put in place such as social distancing markers on the floor, directional arrows to direct traffic, face coverings for all staff and students, additional disinfecting and sanitizing and enforcing social distancing inside the classroom and lunchroom.

kwhs_2.jpg

Red dots remind students in line to keep 6 feet apart. Red arrows also line the hallways to enforce directional traffic to limit the amount of interactions with other students. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

kwhs_3.jpg

Face covering reminders line the door of the high school and middle school offices. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

High school Principal Matt Ryan said this decision has been a great way for the high school level to start and establish a routine with a smaller amount of students, as about 50% of high school students are in the school at one time.

“As they are transitioning a lot more, there’s more contact, so having fewer kids definitely made that easier to establish,” Ryan said.

kwhs_5.jpg

High school teacher Dan Rechtzigel takes attendance with both virtual students and in-person students, as directed by the hybrid learning model. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

At K-W, the hybrid learning model allows PreK-6 grades to remain in-person learning as in previous years and divides the seventh through 12th grade in two groups, as even as possible and keeping families in the same household in the same groups. Group A receives in-person learning Mondays and Tuesdays, while Group B attends class online at their homes via Google Classroom/Meet. On Thursdays and Fridays, the groups flip flop to allow equal in-person learning opportunities for both groups. Wednesdays are distance learning for both groups and also allow teachers more time to prepare and students time to set up a one-on-one meeting with a teacher, or attend student council meetings.

kwhs_6.jpg

kwhs_6.jpg

Liliana Wood and Gavin Burns create pots during a class while wearing masks and keeping a safe distance. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

While inside the school, all staff and students are required to wear masks, practice social distancing of 6 feet in place at all times and if 6 feet cannot be achieved with 50% capacity, the number of people in a space is reduced. Officials also limited the number of people at school and on buses to 50% maximum capacity. Ryan says the district had a company come in to determine the amount of people that can be in each room in the school, while following COVID-19 social distancing occupancy numbers. Although some rooms, such as the chemistry room are larger, Ryan says they may not allow that many people since more room is required during things such as labs.

kwhs_7.jpg

Whitney Bartholome poses for a photo behind three-attached pieces of Plexiglass which act as a form of protective barrier that allows her to take her mask off. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

Each teacher has a different setup to balance teaching in-person and virtual students at the same time, but Ryan says almost all teachers have some type of Plexiglas setup on their desks to allow for more protection between themselves and students. In Darin Walling’s science classes, he uses a document camera so that virtual students can see what he is writing on the board, just as in-person students can. For Dan Rechtzigel’s Econ virtual students, the camera is placed at the front of the room to capture footage of him teaching students. One other layer of additional actions teachers need to handle is spraying and wiping tables and desks down between each class period.

“Staff have a little different spectrum of how comfortable they want to be, as some have more protective equipment than others, which is fine. We just try to accommodate everyone’s needs as much as possible,” said Ryan.

kwhs_8.jpg

Pieces of Plexiglas are also setup in the chemistry rooms so students can still participate in labs. In this room, there are only 20 students allowed according to the 50% occupancy numbers. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

Ryan has noticed that the hardest part for teachers is managing virtual and in-person students at the same time, because it’s not as easy as passing out a document to everybody.

kwhs_9.jpg

Each teacher has a different type of setup in their room. In this biology room, the teacher has the virtual students shown on the screen for all to see. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

kwhs_11.jpg

Signs reminding students and visitors about mask requirements and social distancing are pasted on the front doors of the high school. (Michelle Vlasak/southernminn.com)

Over the last several weeks, Ryan said school has been going well and students have done well with wearing masks. He suspects a large part of that is that wearing masks has been a part of their world all summer, so it wasn’t like the first day of school was their first day wearing a mask.

“It’s going well, I think things seem pretty calm, but then again we only have half the students here every day too,” said Ryan.

20200922_145550.jpg

Choir Director Stephanie Schumacher teaches her choir classes in the high school auditorium so students are able to spread out, but still be joined together. (Photo courtesy of Matt Ryan)

unnamed.jpg

Band Director Claire Larson directs her band classes in an outdoor setting, which allows students to spread out on bleachers. Since they are outside, they only have masks on their instruments. (Photo courtesy of Matt Ryan)

With the recent 14-day COVID-19 case rate numbers circulating in the 7-8 range, Ryan says officials have some big decisions to make in the coming weeks, as information from a parent survey says parents want their kids back in school. Ryan says he’d also like to find ways to build extra time for teachers to prepare and help out students when needed, especially if they are ever able to switch back to in-person learning for all students.

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

Load comments