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ISD 728 Students Transition to Distance Learning

ISD 728 Families, Staff and Students,

As the number of COVID-19 cases has risen, we have shared information with staff, families and communities regularly, collaborated with public health officials, and worked tirelessly to keep our students in school as much as possible. Unfortunately, all criteria used to determine the appropriate learning model for ISD 728 now requires a move to distance learning for all of our students (E-12).

We realize this communication comes very soon after our most recent announcement regarding learning models, but unfortunately we can not control the rate at which people are impacted by COVID-19 in our communities. The number of confirmed cases in our schools and communities are now double, and in some cases triple, what the Minnesota Department of Health recommends for any type of in-person instruction, and we are simply unable to properly staff our schools. To continue in this fashion would be a disservice to our employees and students. 

To protect the well-being of our school community while also providing a positive educational experience, we are planning a move to distance learning for all students (E-5 and secondary students receiving in-person special education services) on Tuesday, December 1, 2020. This plan allows us to finish out this week of in- person learning (hybrid), while giving families two weeks to prepare for this change.

Early Childhood and Elementary Students (E-5) will not have school Monday, November 30, 2020, which includes students already participating in distance learning. Distance learning will begin Tuesday, December 1, 2020. Early Childhood and Elementary Staff will utilize November 30, 2020 as a planning and preparation day.

Distance learning will remain in place at least through the month of January based on recommendations from public health officials and the Department of Health.

Please Note: Early Childhood and Elementary Students who previously chose to move to the 100% Distance Learning Model for Trimester Two (Family Choice) will remain with their recently assigned distance learning teacher. Students participating in the District’s chosen instructional model will remain with their currently assigned teacher. Remaining with the assigned teacher provides the most consistency for students.

We are hopeful to be able to have students return in the new year, and will provide an update on a possible return no later than January 15, 2021. We would likely implement a phased return approach by bringing some student groups back sooner than others. Such groups may include, but are not limited to Early Childhood to Grade 2 students, students with special needs, students who are homeless, those that speak English as a Second Language, and/or those requiring “hands on” instruction.

In Summary:

  • Monday, November 30, 2020: There will be no school for all Early Childhood through Grade 5 Students.
  • Monday, November 30, 2020: Middle and High School Students will remain in distance learning and will have school.
  • Tuesday, December 1, 2020: All Early Childhood through Grade 5 Students will begin distance learning.
  • Tuesday, December 1, 2020: All secondary students currently receiving in person special education services will begin distance learning. Students will receive the special education services outlined under the distance learning section on their contingency learning plan.
  • By Friday, January 15, 2021: We will provide an update about if and when students may return. These decisions will be based on health data, community case rates, and available staffing.

Note: Middle and High School Students will have school November 30, 2020 in their current distance learning model.

While there will be more information forthcoming from the District and schools in the next couple weeks, we wanted to provide as much notice as possible to our families and staff so they could begin preparing. Below is some initial information however, that may help you get started.

Student Expectations in the Distance Learning Model

Information related to such things as what instruction will look like in the Distance Learning Model, grading, and attendance will be communicated throughout the next week.

Special Education Services

  • Early Childhood Birth-3 Services: Students who are receiving special education services will continue with the services as outlined in their IFSP. Distance learning and virtual instruction will occur. At this time, the District does not feel that it is safe to provide at home, alternative location, or in-person visits at school.
  • Early Childhood & Elementary Students: Early Childhood and Elementary students who are receiving special education services will continue with the services as outlined in the distance learning section of their contingency learning plan. Case managers will work with families to determine if and when students will be able to return during the District’s phased in approach.
  • Secondary Students: Secondary students who are receiving in person special education services currently will begin distance learning on Tuesday, December 1, 2020. Students will receive the special education services outlined under the distance learning section of their contingency learning plan. Case managers will work with families to determine if and when students will be able to return during the District’s phased in approach.
  • Special Education Evaluations: Special education evaluation will continue to take place during distance learning. If an in-person assessment is required, the evaluation may be put on hold until in-person assessments can be provided.

Targeted Services Power Hour

Targeted Services Power Hour will be provided via distance learning.

Technology Access and Support

All students in Grades K-5 will receive a device to be used at school and at home as part of their distance learning experience, even though instruction may not always be done digitally and/or through the devices. Instruction is not meant to occur through technology 100% of the time, but we do want to provide access to technology when relevant.

Following the current classroom technology access, Grade K-2 will be issued iPads and Grades 3-5 Chromebooks.

For students who may not yet have received a school issued device while at school, a device pickup will be available on November 30, 2020. More information will be provided next week.

K-2 Students

  • In the Distance Learning Model, teachers and students in Grades K-2 will use Seesaw. Seesaw gives your child creative tools to capture and reflect on their learning - in real time. Your child's work can then be shared with you through the parent app, giving you a window into each of our classrooms and into your student’s learning process. Click Here for more information on how to use Seesaw.
  • Seesaw will be the mode of communication for messages & learning activities for both in-person and at home. If you need assistance with Seesaw login information, contact your classroom teacher. Click Here for instructions and more information on how to use Seesaw.

3-5 Students

  • Schoology is utilized in Grades 3-5. Schoology is an online classroom management system that improves learning through better communication, collaboration, and increased access to curriculum resources. Teachers use Schoology as their primary web presence and is one of the primary tools used to communicate class information, resources and announcements, and to submit digital assignments. Click Here to access resources to assist you in learning more about how to use Schoology.

Discovery Learning Preschool and Early Childhood Special Education Services

Discovery Learning Preschool and Early Childhood Special Education will be closed Monday, November 30, 2020 and transition to the distance learning format on Tuesday, December 1, 2020. Families will receive communication from the Early Childhood Tuesday, November 17, 2020 about the distance learning formats available for their child’s participation.

Childcare Services

ISD 728 will continue to provide free care during the regular school day for school-age children (Kindergarten through Grade 5) who are children of Tier I critical workers* (both parents). Children of Tier I workers will be cared for at no cost during the typical school hours. Childcare for all other children, Kindergarten through Grade 5, is available for a fee as space and staffing allow.

Hybrid/Distance Learning approved families will receive a communication from the EdVenture Club Office providing details on the distance learning scheduling process Tuesday, November 17, 2020. Current waitlisted families will receive additional information this week as we continue to evaluate spaces and staffing to accommodate the childcare needs throughout the District. New families interested to be placed on the waitlist can apply on the EdVenture Club Website.

Facility Use and Rentals

Building rental requests must be approved through the Community Education Office and must follow the Safe Learning Plan requirements. We will continue to require COVID-19 Preparedness Plans from eligible and approved renters. The school district will follow the cleaning and disinfection protocols outlined in the Safe Learning Plan.

More Information

For additional information, please visit our COVID-19 page on the ISD 728 website. If you have any questions, contact the District through our discussion feature, Let’s Chat at www.isd728.org/LetsChat, where you can request information on learning models, transportation, food service and more.

Thank you for helping us to keep our students, staff, and community safe. We appreciate the partnership and understanding.

Sincerely,
Daniel Bittman
ISD 728 Superintendent