by Dennis Dalman
So far, so good.
During the ongoing Virus Crisis, that pretty much sums up how the new school year is coming along in the Sartell-St. Stephen School District.
Teachers, staff, students and parents have had to be flexible, adaptable and creative in new ways of learning while staying safe from illness. Everyone in the schools, including students of course, must practice distancing, wearing masks at all times.
Due to a recent increase in the Covid-19 infection rate in Stearns County, starting on Oct. 12, students at Riverview Intermediate School changed to a hybrid learning model from an all in-person, in-school learning process. The high school and middle school in the district have been using the hybrid model since opening day, and now Riverview – at least for the foreseeable future – has adapted to that same model.
In the meantime, students in Early Childhood Education classes and in kindergarten will continue in-person learning at the Oak Ridge Learning Center, as well as the first- and second-graders at Pine Meadow Elementary School.
About 900 students in grades three through five attend Riverview, which is the newly remodeled former Sartell Middle School.
In an interview with the Sartell Newsleader, Riverview Assistant Principal Brittney Schoephoerster explained how the hybrid model works.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, students whose last names begin with the letters A through K will attend school in person while following the safety guidelines. That group is known as the “Blues,” named after the blue color of the school district’s blue-and-silver Sabre logo.
On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the “Silvers” (those whose last names begin with letters L through Z) will attend school in person.
On their “off” days, the days when they’re not in school, all students will be expected to accomplish distance learning from their homes as well as on Fridays.
A big advantage to splitting students into groups is that spaces within school buildings are freed up so distancing during learning, with fewer students, is more easily accomplished.
Schoephoerster, noting that Riverview was totally “in-person” learning until Oct. 12, said she has been very impressed by how well everyone was adapting to rigorous safety policies and restrictions.
“They’re doing a great job,” she said, praising the students’ behavior. “We’re all just doing our best, and we will continue to communicate with everyone as we get new information.”
An important part of that new information is the daily Covid-19 infection rates released by the Minnesota Department of Health. If rates increase, new adaptations and learning models might have to be introduced.
Right now, students are off for Minnesota Education Association school break Oct. 14-16, and teachers had to do “virtual” conferences.
The three learning-model options for Sartell schools, based on criteria from the Minnesota Department of Education, are the following:
Learning Model 1: In-person learning for all students.
Learning Model 2: Hybrid learning with strict social distancing and capacity limits.
Learning Model 3: Distance learning only.