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Superintendent Report 7/13/2020: COVID-19 and the 2020-2021 School Year

Purpose of Report: To provide the ISD 728 School Board with an update on planning for the start of the 2020-2021 school year.

Priority Areas:  Student Achievement, School Climate and Culture, District Staff, Communication, and Community Engagement.

Explanation: ISD 728 continues to prepare for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. This update will assist in providing information to the School Board, students, staff, and community regarding the plans for the fall. Highlights regarding the committees, focus areas, and timelines will be shared. Direction for all Minnesota School Districts will be provided and communicated by the Governor later this month.

Organizational Structure
In review, an organizational structure was created to develop plans for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. The structure consists of a Guiding Team (Cabinet), Committees specifically focused on E-5, Middle School, High School, and Student Support Services (i.e. special education), and Operational Teams representing transportation, health and safety, food services, custodial services, technology, human resources, special education, and English Language Learning / ADSIS. Each area is covered by an overarching Public Health umbrella, and will ultimately be brought to the Board. 

Models of Instruction
Each committee is working collaboratively to develop plans based on the model of instructional delivery that is needed.  The instructional delivery models are 1) Face to Face; 2) Hybrid; and 3) Distance Learning. 

  • Face to Face:  Traditional instructional delivery occurs with facility and procedural modifications (as can be reasonably implemented).  In this model, students and teachers maintain a traditional schedule, and safety precautions are implemented.

  • Hybrid:  This instructional method includes a variety of models based on factors such as, but not limited to availability of workers, age/level of student, student need, transportation availability, etc…  This model includes a mixture of distance learning through technology from home and direct instruction on site.  This model would also be used as a “bridge” between the Face to Face Model and the Hybrid Model. The Hybrid Model would not be intended to be used for long periods of time.  Hybrid delivery decisions would be based on recommendations from the Department of Health and the Department of Education, and could be used for small or significant closures (i.e. classroom, school, district). 

  • Distance Learning:  This model would be the most restrictive, and based on recommendations from the Department of Health and/or parental choice.  In this model, students would not be allowed to return to school.  This model could also be provided as an option for students/families who have concerns about returning to school.

Highlights
Committees are developing plans as precautionary measures in the event that a classroom, building, or the entire school district would need to move into an alternate learning model.  The intent of the plans is to provide stakeholders with guidelines and expectations to support the learning and teaching of students.

Instruction:

  • Plans will allow buildings to move between all models without a significant loss of learning
  • Instruction will be consistent across the district (i.e. curriculum, programs, resources, etc.)
  • Each level will have a consistent Learning Management System 
  • Relationships and engagement will continue to be areas of focus
  • Parents who would like to have their child participate in Distance Learning will be given the opportunity to do so

Health & Safety:

  • Health Services will assist in determining health and safety practices for all
  • Health Services will provide guidance related to such things as social distancing, screening practices, PPE, general hygiene, etc.
  • Protocols for student/staff demonstrating COVID 19 will be established
  • Department of Health guidelines will be followed
  • Assistance and plans will be implemented for medically fragile students and staff, and/or those with special healthcare needs
  • Vaccination requirements will be upheld

Facility and Maintenance:

  • Summer cleaning will have been completed
  • Staff will adhere to Department of Education and Department of Health recommendations as able
  • Building check-in procedures will be implemented
  • Custodians will disinfect all common areas, door hardware and frequently touched surfaces consistently
  • EPA approved cleaning products will be used

Technology:

  • Devices will be cleaned, distributed, repaired, and maintained based on best practice standards
  • All families will be provided devices to access materials
  • Technology hotspots will be provided to those in poverty and/or in need as available
  • Staff will implement support centralization in collaboration with other student services

Building Practices:

  • Social distancing will be promoted
  • Minimal mixing between groups will be limited as much as possible
  • Schools will follow restrictions related to non-essential visitors, volunteers, and activities involving outside groups
  • Student sharing of materials will be limited
  • Good hygiene will be taught and encouraged

Transportation:

  • Implement recommendations from the Department of Health and Department of Education
  • Assign seats
  • Conduct increased cleaning protocols
  • Serve students with the current fleet of vehicles as the opportunity for increased budget capacity, ability for contractors to acquire additional vehicles, and ability for contractors to hire additional staff would create significant challenges

Communication 

  • All stakeholders must be committed to sending and receiving information 
  • Parents/Guardians must communicate with schools regarding any changes to phone numbers, email addresses, emergency contact information, etc.
  • The District must communicate the overall plan for instructional delivery and changes in a timeline manner 

The District has established the following methods by which communication and information will be offered including, but not limited to:

  • Handbooks
  • Let’s Chat
  • ISD 728 Website
  • School Newsletters
  • Regular Superintendent Messages
  • Local Media
  • Parent Portal
  • Employee Access
  • ISD 728 Facebook Page
  • ISD 728 Twitter
  • ISD 728 You Tube 

Food Service:

  • Staff will adhere to guidance and recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Department of Health (new restaurant and dining guidelines and 2020-2021 Planning Guidance for Schools), Centers for Disease Control, and the Governor’s Office
  • ISD 728 will provide meals and material deliveries in accordance with requirements and as it is able
  • Staff will create and communicate expectations related to such things as respect, social distancing, hygiene, etc.
  • Meals will be readily available for all students

 Human Resources:

  • Staff will adhere to guidance and recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Department of Health, and the Governor’s Office 
  • State and federal law will be followed
  • Staff will work collaboratively, respectfully, and efficiently with bargaining units to modify current agreements to best serve students, families and staff
  • Staff will align staffing models to the needs of students and finances available
  • A framework and rubric to monitor and evaluate staff absences, engagement, and wellness will be developed, making necessary and appropriate support available
  • Staff will support hiring personnel by maximizing flexibility, communicating expectations and opportunities,  and ensuring timely and appropriate task completion to meet evolving needs 

Financial Resources:

  • Staff will identify potential state and federal resources available for COVID 19 related expenses
  • Local, state, and national funding will be maximized to aid in funding COVID 19 related expenses
  • Staff will coordinate and help prioritize school district and community needs
  • Staff will determine the need for, develop, and present a “supplemental” COVID 19 budget to the Board as required and/or necessary

Committee Participation
Students, staff, administrators and community members have been, and will continue to be, involved with the planning process.

Tentative Timeline

  • MDE  and MDE have provided general guidance documents 
  • MDE, MDH, and Governor are expected to provide direction no later than July 31, 2020.
  • Cabinet has set parameters and will distribute this week.
  • Extended Cabinet will meet and refine parameters the Week of July 20, 2020 as needed.
  • Working groups have begun meeting and will have proposals completed no later than August 14, 2020.
  • Communication to families is expected to be sent no later than the week of August 17, 2020.
  • First day for students is September 8, 2020.

Summary
ISD 728 is committed to a safe learning environment for students and staff.  The District is currently in the process of developing plans for the return to school for three possible scenarios, and will communicate the information as it becomes available.  Minnesota school districts do not have the authority to implement a certain instructional model during the pandemic.  However, the Governor, who does have the authority, is expected to provide direction no later than July 31, 2020.  Regardless of direction provided, ISD 728 will be ready and well prepared.