WORTHINGTON — The safe learning plan announced by Gov. Tim Walz Thursday will help the ISD 518 Fall Planning Committee decide how to proceed with school next year, Superintendent John Landgaard said Friday.

"They gave us the guidance we needed to move forward," Landgaard said. A few items still need clarification, but he is optimistic that the committee will have a district-specific plan ready to be announced Aug. 14.

"Everybody is working hard, doing their best to provide the quality education that is expected," he promised. "Will it be a perfect plan? No. But hopefully it will be an excellent or a good plan."

No matter which direction the district decides to go, 2020-2021 will be "a year of adjustments," Landgaard noted. The year may start with learning done one way and shift during the year based on coronavirus spread and government recommendations.

State guidelines released Thursday recommend that school districts choose a learning plan based on the number of positive COVID-19 cases per 10,000 residents of the county.

Using the most recent data, Nobles County had a rate of 20.15 positive cases per 10,000 people over a two-week period, putting the county in the middling range of recommendations. The state would have Nobles County use a hybrid learning model for all students using this data. However, as case rates fluctuate, Nobles County's recommended policy may change.

A survey of Worthington teachers found that hybrid learning is the preferred choice among District 518 educators. About 86% of the teachers said they would feel comfortable with a hybrid model that has 25% of students onsite, with the rest doing distance learning, on any given day, and 80% were comfortable with a hybrid model with 50% of students onsite at a time.

When it comes to returning to the classroom full-time, 60% of Worthington teachers responded that they would be OK with that if masks were required and the district abided by Minnesota Department of Health guidelines.

“We want to be back in school with our students. But we want our school buildings to not only reopen, but to stay open,” said Jodi Hansen, president of Education Minnesota-Worthington. “That means following public health guidelines, deploying tools to prevent the virus’ spread and most importantly listening to the concerns of parents, students and educators in Worthington.”

District staff are carefully considering what makes the most sense for District 518 students and families, based on the governor's announcement.