by Mike Knaak
Students and parents in the Sartell-St. Stephen school district will learn on Aug. 17 how schools will operate when classes begin Sept. 8. The decision will come three weeks before school starts.
School board members heard on Aug. 5 detailed plans for the three learning options directed by the state earlier this summer.
Schools were directed to prepare for in-person classes, a hybrid plan of distance learning and in-school instruction or a return to distance learning.
According to state rules, what plan a district uses depends on the number of Covid-19 cases per 10,000 over the last 15 days in the county.
To return all students to in-person learning, the case rate needs to be between 0-9. According to the most recent data for Stearns County, the case rate is between 11 and 12. That means the Sartell-St. Stephen district is right on the edge between in-person classes and a hybrid model. Next week, the district expects to see district-level case numbers.
By Aug. 17, that number could change.
“If everybody wears a mask and follows social distancing, we have a better chance of coming back to school in person,” said Superintendent Jeff Schwiebert. “We’re hopeful we’ll be in the 0-9 range.”
If the number remains well above 9, the district will open with in-person learning for kindergarten through grade five and the hybrid option for grades six through 12.
At the Aug. 5 meeting, administrators and principals presented detailed plans developed by each school for how each of the three scenarios would operate. District administrators presented plans for technology, busing and food service for the different learning plans.
No matter what plan unfolds, masks will be mandatory for students and staff.
The detailed plan is available on the school district web site.
To help planning, district leaders are asking parents to make a decision by Aug. 12 and register each child into either a distance learning only or the flexible school year format. Parents should have received an email this week about the choices.
Teams at each school will continue to work on detailed plans about how to operate under the state rules.
The Minnesota State High School League determined the fall sports season will change. Football and volleyball will be played from about March 15 to May 15. Other fall sports will go on as scheduled. Traditional spring sports will take place from May 15 to July 15. The exact dates have not been set for the delayed fall and altered spring sports seasons. The high school league did not address winter sports.