by Mike Knaak
Sartell-St. Stephen schools will open the year with a mix of in-person and hybrid learning, unless updated numbers available on Aug. 27 show a drop in Covid-19 cases.
As of now, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade will open the year with in-person education while sixth- through 12th-graders will follow a hybrid schedule.
The decision is based on state rules for the number of Covid-19 cases in Stearns County. To provide in-person instruction for all students, the case rate must be nine or fewer cases per 10,000 people over the past 14 days. Currently, Stearns County is at 11.54 cases.
The plan could change before schools open on Sept. 8 if the Stearns County rate continues to drop. The district could switch to all in-person classes, Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert said. On Aug. 27, new numbers will be available. That number will set the model for the first two weeks of school.
For hybrid learning grades, students will be divided into two groups. One group will meet in school Monday and Tuesday and use distance learning on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. The second group will use distance learning on Monday, Tuesday and Friday and meet in school on Wednesday and Thursday.
In-person classes will be limited to 50 percent capacity, but that shouldn’t be a problem because most classrooms have a capacity of 33-34 students, Schwiebert said.
The school board approved the plan at its Aug. 17 meeting and also authorized Schwiebert in consultation with board chair Jeremy Snoberger to change plans if the health situation changes. Once school starts, every two weeks the administration will decide the model for the next two weeks. Families can expect a communication every other Thursday, beginning Sept. 17, for the anticipated learning model for the following two weeks. If a more urgent need arises, the school district will promptly shift to a more restrictive model.
The guidelines for returning to school were set by the Departments of Health and Education. School districts can choose stricter options but not less restrictive plans than determined by case numbers.
Families also have the option of participating in a distance- learning-format. Schwiebert told the board about 8 percent of parents want full-time distance learning for their students, according to surveys sent to parents.
An outline of these models can be found in the district’s Safe Learning Plan at www.sartell.k12.mn.us/safelearningplan.
Masks will be required in schools, district buildings and buses for students, staff and visitors.