The Perham-Dent School Board held a special board meeting on Wednesday, July 22, to hear the plans that the schools have been working on for the coming school year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
All public school districts in Minnesota are required to have three different plans in place, and to be prepared to change between plans, for the 2020-21 school year. The required three plans are scenario 1 will be holding in-person school with social distancing in place, scenario 2 will be hybrid learning with a rotation of 50% of students being learning in-person and the others doing distance learning, scenario 3 will be distance learning similar to what was done in the spring but with some improvements.
How changing between the three scenarios will work and which one Minnesota schools will start out with is expected to be announced by the Minnesota Department of Education the week of July 27. Once announcements are made by the state, the school district will be able to put final details into the plans that they have been working on preparing.
The school is still waiting to see the end results of the parent survey, which ends on Friday, July 24, to get feedback on transportation needs, comfort levels with sending children back to school, internet limitations, and feedback about items such as distance learning.
Students and staff will be required to wear masks on campus, except for students under the age of five or who have another exemption. The district has been working with the Lakes County Service Cooperative to select and obtain the proper personal protection equipment (PPE) in the correct volumes so that they can provide it to those who do not have their own. By working with the cooperative the school will be able to get the PPE at a better bulk price and in a more timely manner.
Everyone, whether they be student, staff, parent or visitor will be required to wear a mask in the schools, have their temperature taken and will answer COVID-19 screen questions similar to those at Perham Health before entering the school buildings. Students who are found to have a fever will be sent to a designated waiting area within the school that is still being determined, while they wait to be picked up.
The area school districts have been working together and communicating with one another about how they will handle enrollment if they are allowed to be at different scenarios based on how the community is affected by COVID-19. While the districts are still waiting on word from the state on how to proceed they are working on ideas on how to keep families from constantly changing schools throughout the year to one that is in a scenario that they prefer.
While there are still many unknowns in how exactly the school year will play out in the three scenarios, the Perham-Dent Public Schools hope to have finalized plans to families by Aug. 10.
Currently, all three schools are discussing a variety of things, such as; how to handle mealtimes, how to keep on-campus learning properly socially distanced by using all available spaces creatively, how they will give students who need as much in-person learning as possible, such as the youngest elementary students and special education students, the most in-person learning possible, and how to accommodate both students and staff who will not be returning to in-person classrooms at all this fall.
While it is still unknown whether or not if the state will require districts to provide distance learning to students who will not be sent back to in-person learning in the fall, the Perham-Dent district would like to provide it no matter what scenario the school is at. There is currently a strong possibility that staff who are uncomfortable with or have reason to not return to in-person classrooms this fall will take charge of distance learning for those students and during the hybrid learning scenario.
The school is also working with its teaching staff to have all classes, in each school, using the same online learning platforms to provide consistency for both parents and students during distance learning situations.
Clear institutions on learning technologies, communication about what scenario the school is at or changing to and other resources for parents are also being worked on for all three schools.