- VandenBerge Middle School
Message from the Superintendent: Return to Learn Plan 2021-2022
Greetings ISD 728 Families, Students and Staff,
We are looking forward to a more typical start to the 2021-2022 school year and are excited to have our students and families back in our buildings. We also welcome our former and new Online728 students and families to the 2021-2022 school year. We continue to partner with local, public health officials and monitor local data related to the pandemic. While the number of positive COVID-19 cases is significantly lower than what we experienced throughout the last year, we continue to see surges of COVID-19 across the state, country and world. This is a good reminder that we need to take certain precautions and work collaboratively to protect our students, families and staff.
Department of Health and Department of Education Guidelines and Requirements
We will continue to follow guidelines and requirements from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education.
If either department requires an action, we will communicate the information and implement the action in our school system. Similarly, if either department recommends an action, ISD 728 will recommend it and in some cases implement the recommendation as it is able, which means it may be occurring in some locations and not in others. We know this can be confusing and frustrating for some, but the age of the children, size of the learning space, type of programming, available workforce, and much more are all variables that could impact the District’s ability to implement recommendations.
Self-Check and Self-Report of COVID-19 Symptoms
The practice of self-checking and self-reporting of COVID-19 symptoms will remain the same as it was during the 2020-2021 school year, which includes students and staff conducting their own daily self-check of COVID-19 symptoms and staying home if they are sick or display any symptoms. Please do not send children to school if they are sick or display any symptoms.
Parents/Guardians should contact the Licensed School Nurse assigned to their child’s school if they have any questions.
Staff Only: Staff are encouraged to to review the Minnesota Department of Health guidelines and to contact Human Resources if they have any personnel related questions.
At this time, masks are recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education. As a result, ISD 728 will recommend but not require masks within our public school buildings and other District sites. This guidance will be constantly evaluated based on school and local data.
Please note however, masks are required throughout the United States when using public transportation (i.e. planes, buses, taxis, etc.), which includes school buses, per a federal Executive Order.
In summary, masks are required on all buses (including any buses/vans used for before/after school activities and field trips) and other Vision Transportation vehicles. Masks are recommended, but not required at all ISD 728 buildings, regardless of vaccination status.
Steps to Address Bullying / Harassment
There are a number of steps schools take to protect against claims of harassment/bullying in general, but also to guard against “mask-shaming” claims. Below you will find some information specific to ISD 728.
- The ISD 728 School Board has enacted all federal and state mandated policies that address harassment and bullying. Examples of these policies include policies: 102 Equal Educational Opportunity; 401 Equal Employment Opportunity; 402 Disability Nondiscrimination Policy; 413 Harassment and Violence; 514 Bullying Prohibition Policy; and 521 Student Disability Nondiscrimination.
- We will ensure that staff, students, and parents are provided notice of these policies, at a minimum, in handbooks and through the school district’s website.
- School administrators will clarify expectations at the beginning of the school year.
- Administrators will also notify staff and students that “maskshaming” may be considered harassment and/or bullying and subject to disciplinary action.
- If a complaint of “mask-shaming” is received, administrators will promptly investigate and respond to the complaint pursuant to the procedures set forth in the school district’s policies. This investigative process may require that the complaint be reviewed pursuant to more than just one policy as, for example, harassment may be a form of bullying requiring a multifaceted approach.
- Findings of harassment and bullying will be addressed in accordance with the school district’s discipline policies and procedures.
- Regardless of whether a finding of harassment or bullying is made, school administrators are expected to implement additional remedial measures, where appropriate, to ensure that the staff member or student feels welcome at school, that the conduct that caused the complaint does not reoccur and that acts of retaliation are promptly addressed.
COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing
Vaccinations are encouraged for all students and staff that are eligible. They will not be required in ISD 728, and neither students, nor staff will be required to provide evidence of their vaccination status. We will continue to work with local, public health officials to create testing and vaccination opportunities for those who are interested and to communicate opportunities to our families and staff.
ISD 728 will continue to implement mitigation strategies, and to monitor and adjust practices based on data and the ability to implement mitigation strategies within each of its buildings. Below you will find information about some of the strategies:
- Hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout buildings
- Social Distancing will continue to be encouraged when possible
- Visitors and volunteers will be asked to wear a mask if not fully vaccinated
- Signs will be posted throughout the buildings to remind everyone of continued proper hygiene and mitigation strategies
- Seating charts will be used on all school buses
- Masks will be required on school buses and other District transportation
Disinfecting and Cleaning Routines
General “high touch” areas will be cleaned and sanitized regularly by custodians and other employees. Staff will have access to supplies for more regular cleaning.
ISD 728 has paid close attention to ventilation throughout the District, and continues to ensure systems are operating efficiently and routinely throughout all parts of the District. The District also has worked with outside agencies to monitor and test ventilation systems to ensure it is protecting the health and safety of our students, families and staff.
Reporting of Positive COVID-19 (Parents/Guardians)
Reporting of positive COVID-19 cases will remain the same as it was during the 2020-2021 school year. During the school day, parents/guardians are asked to report cases directly to their child’s health office and/or Licensed School Nurse. After hours, parents/guardians will be able to report cases through the District’s website (here).
Lab Confirmed Positive Case Management
ISD 728 will also continue to work with the Minnesota Department of Health and to follow guidelines for those who have tested positive for COVID-19. Individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 will be required to stay home for a minimum of ten (10) days from the time symptoms started and/or the time they tested positive for COVID-19. They may not return to school until after that time AND must be symptom free. If the Minnesota Department of Health revises their guidance, ISD 728 will communicate this information.
Quarantine Guidance for Close Contacts
Everyone is encouraged to follow the guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health (here). At times, the Department of Education, Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend quarantine for individuals who were in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Parents/Guardians and staff are strongly encouraged to follow the recommendations identified in the provided link. Updated 8/27/21
Academic Expectations During Quarantine and/or Isolation
Parents/Guardians are encouraged to work directly with their child’s teacher to make arrangements. Students who typically attend school in person and who are required to isolate (i.e. tested positive for COVID-19) or are choosing to quarantine because they were identified as a close contact to someone who has now tested positive for COVID-19 will not participate in virtual/online lessons during their quarantine/isolation period, and instead, will follow traditional make-up methods, unless otherwise instructed by their teacher. All students must complete required coursework.
Activities and Athletics
ISD 728 will follow guidelines and requirements from the Minnesota State High School League and the athletic conference. Athletic Directors and/or coaches will continue to provide information to both students and families. Here are recent recommendations and information shared by the MSHSL.
COVID-19 Data and Website
ISD 728 will continue to maintain its dashboard and website, which will provide the number of weekly, confirmed positive cases (student and staff), as well as any pertinent COVID-19-related information.
Contract Tracing and Notifications
ISD 728 will not conduct routine contact tracing, however, it will work with the Minnesota Department of Health on specific cases. Contract tracing in ISD 728 will be conducted when surges occur and/or in situations that warrant it. Parents of elementary students will be notified by email if their child may have been in close contact with an individual who tested positive in their classroom.
Due to the availability of vaccinations, the number of individuals/classes middle and high school students have, and the complexity of the contract tracing process in these settings, parents/guardians of middle and high school students will not be notified if their child may have been in close contact with an individual who tested positive in their classroom.
Visitors and Volunteers
ISD 728 prioritizes and values having both visitors and volunteers engaged and present in its schools and buildings.
Volunteers are defined as individuals who are invited and approved by the School District to assist with specific activities and/or at certain events.
Visitors are defined as individuals who choose to come to school for things such as, but not limited to dropping off materials in a classroom, having lunch with their child, and observing their child during a particular activity.
ISD 728 will allow volunteers to be present and to participate in school activities and events during the school day in all its schools (E-12), but asks that volunteers who are not fully vaccinated, wear a face covering.
However, ISD 728 will not allow visitors to be present and to participate in school activities and events during the school day in any of its Elementary or Middle Schools until Trimester 2 (November 25, 2021) as these schools serve students who do not have access to the COVID-19 vaccination at this time, Trimester 1 will provide an opportunity for school personnel to work closely with public health officials, monitor COVID - 19-related trends as students return to school, and to ensure students have the best chance of staying healthy and in school.
Note: Adult participants in early childhood and adult learning programs will continue to be allowed to participate as registered learners during these times.
Visitors will be allowed to be present and to participate in activities and events in the ISD 728 high schools, which include Elk River, Ivan Sand, Rogers, and Zimmerman Middle/High Schools.
Please note, starting this Fall, volunteers in ISD 728 without a current approved background check on file will be asked to obtain a background check and pay the processing fee of $10.25. Approved background checks are valid for up to three years. For opportunities at your building, please contact your building parent liaison.
ISD 728 is a great place to serve and learn – and it’s even better when our families are involved. If the background check processing fee is a hardship for your family, please communicate with your child’s principal to explore options.
ISD 728 will return to normal food service operations for the 2021-2022 school year. Students will also be able to receive a healthy breakfast AND lunch, free of charge as communicated to families in various other communications.
If you have questions, comments or concerns relating to the information in this communication, please submit them using this link.
Dr. Dan Bittman
ISD 728 Superintendent