Superintendent Mitch Anderson has sent out an update on the Perham-Dent School District plans for the upcoming school year, indicating the district will start with in-person class for pre-K through fourth grade and a hybrid of in-person and online for grades five through 12.
"The Building Leadership Teams from each of our schools are continuously developing plans to provide a safe opening in each of our buildings. We are close to finalizing each of the 3 Learning Models that every district in the state has been required to have ready," Anderson said in an email Thursday, Aug 6.
Transitioning between models throughout the year based on the Otter Tail County and local COVID-19 case rates should be expected, he said. The three scenarios include:
- In-person learning for all students.
- Hybrid learning with strict social distancing and capacity limits.
- Distance learning only.
The School Board met earlier this week to get an update on the learning models, and a final decision on how to "start" the school year will be made Friday, Aug. 14 according to Anderson. The district understands the many questions and concerns that families have regarding schedules and expectations as the start of the year nears. Reopening of school is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic when many children and families are experiencing additional economic hardships, social isolation, and other stressors. According to Anderson, our schools are a critical component of communities and have a tremendous impact on the health, well-being, growth, and development of students and families.
"As we look forward to the 2020-21 school year in all three of our school buildings we anticipate that SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – will continue to circulate," Anderson said. Students, teachers, and other school staff will be at risk of transmitting and acquiring the infection. It is important that everyone in the school community take steps to reduce transmission, particularly to those at high risk.
The district has formed a 12-member Incident Command Team that will meet with Otter Tail County Public Health officials Thursday, Aug. 13, to review and examine our most current 14-day case rates in Otter Tail County, Anderson said. This information will be used to establish our re-opening learning models for each school in the district. Although nothing is set in stone as of today, indicators point to the school district starting with "In-Person Learning" for our Pre-K through 4th Grade, and "Hybrid Learning" for grades 5 through 12. "I want to share this with you so that you can have time to develop plans for your child(ren) and your own schedules. We feel "In-Person Learning" is critical for our youngest learners at the Heart of the Lakes Elementary and pre-school, therefore our intent is to start the year with this model," Anderson said. "To accomplish this, we are looking at moving the Fourth Grade to the Prairie Wind Middle School building to provide more space and classrooms for K-3. Eighth Grade would then transition to Perham High School where we have ample space to achieve the room capacity and social distancing requirements in the hybrid learning model."
In the 5-12 Hybrid Learning Model, students will be placed into two groups so that the required room capacity and social distancing requirements can be achieved. The schools will be running these two groups on a Monday/Tuesday and Thursday/Friday schedule, according to Anderson. Wednesdays will be e-Learning days for all 5-12 students while we thoroughly clean the buildings in preparation for the next group's days. He said, "We anticipate having these groups (based on households, siblings, etc) established next week so families will know what days of the week they will have In-Person Learning."
Families will soon be receiving a survey from your school asking for intentions regarding transportation of students, as well as any preference for distance learning for students, Anderson said. Distance learning is available for all families throughout the year. At the middle and high school levels, families are encouraged to consider transitions to and from distance learning at the end of the semester or trimester.
More information will be coming out in they near future as plans are finalized, plans will be shared via the school website, social media and school messenger.
"While I was hesitant to share the information above, knowing that our County Case Rates could force us to change with short notice, I do know the urgency we're all experiencing. Hopefully, this information will give you a clearer picture of how we hope to start the year at Perham-Dent Public Schools, but also give you an indication on what we could experience over the next several months," Anderson said. "We appreciate everyone's understanding and flexibility as we continue to develop plans. As we finalize plans for transportation, groupings, schedules, etc. we will communicate those with you immediately. Please feel free to contact your schools with any questions or concerns you may have."