The week of July 27 is just days away and Minnesotans are anxiously awaiting word from the Department of Education about COVID-19 back-to-school plans. Will it be in-person instruction for all students, distance learning for all, or a combination of the two?
Saint Paul Public Schools has laid out plans for what its schools and approximately 37,000 students could encounter when the 2020-21 school year begins Sept. 8.
In the event that a hybrid model is selected, SPPS will keep schools at 50% capacity or less. Students will be split into two groups, each attending in-person classes two days a week and utilizing distance learning the other three days.
If parents don't want their child to attend via the in-person or hybrid model, SPPS will allow them to distance-learn the entire school year.
According to the Pioneer Press, a district study found that 26% of families would choose distance learning as the preferred model for the upcoming year, while another 43% of families would be open to the full-time distance learning model.
There will be a masking policy
"Please know that health and safety is a top priority in SPPS," the district website says. "Some of the changes that students, staff and families will see when returning to school include a masking policy, passive health screening guidelines, and changes to our cleaning protocols and meal service, among others."
Here's the list health guidelines established on the district website.
- Health guidelines and expectations for students and families
- Updated reporting system for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms
- Guidance around masking (cloth face coverings)
- Health screening checklist and guidelines
- Signage around masking, social distancing/floor markings, health screening checklist, handwashing and COVID-19 symptoms
- Changes to food service including minimizing self-service options and additional eating spaces
Classrooms will be supplied with hand sanitizer, disinfect spray and wipes. Students will also receive their own water bottles, while schools will run "enhanced filtration and mechanical systems" longer to keep as much fresh air from outside flowing through buildings.
Assuming an outbreak
The district has outlined a number of operational assumptions, one of which is the likelihood of a COVID-19 outbreak at school(s).
"There will be an outbreak of COVID-19 during the school year at one or more of our schools that may require at least a temporary school closure. Schools may need to quickly pivot between delivery models as the COVID risk changes," the district site reads.
Another operational assumption is that large gatherings of any kind will be impossible, including "large-scale communal meal service and athletic events with large groups of spectators."
Changes for teachers, staff
The district has made workforce assumptions that include staff who can't return to in-person work due to health concerns, and staff who simply do not want to return to work.
Additionally, the district suspects teachers will "need additional training to improve their digital instructional knowledge, skills, assessment, feedback and grading."