WORTHINGTON — The District 518 school board voted unanimously in support of an outlined schedule for students to return to a hybrid learning plan this month at a special board meeting Monday morning.

As of Monday, the district went back to the learning model it was using in September: Prairie Elementary and the Area Learning Center with 50% of students in class each day, and the middle and high schools at 25%.

Gov. Tim Walz has announced that beginning Jan. 19, Minnesota elementary schools may begin moving toward full in-person instruction. The district has opted to take a phased approach, with grades K-2 going back the 19th and 3-4 returning Feb. 1.

The high school and middle school will be using a 50% hybrid model beginning on the start of the third academic quarter, Monday, Jan. 25.

Along with these changes, Superintendent John Landgaard explained that the state is no longer requiring buses to run at 50% capacity, but students must sit in assigned seats and there must be a protective barrier in place for each bus driver. This way, if one student tests positive for COVID-19, then only those who were sitting near that student will be asked to quarantine, rather than the whole bus.

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Previously, district teachers were allowed to apply to work from home if they felt that coming into the school building would put them at risk for COVID-19. Going forward, Landgaard said, teachers will only be eligible to apply for this privilege if they have a documented medical reason why they shouldn't work in person.

The calendar was approved through Feb. 5 and is subject to change based on how the pandemic develops in the next month.

Also at the school board meeting, Lori Dudley was elected as the newest school board chair. She has been serving on the school board for 18 years.

"Thank you for your nomination and confidence in my abilities," she told her fellow board members.

Other officers include Joel Lorenz as vice chair, Steve Schnieder as clerk and Brad Shaffer as treasurer.

Monday was the first meeting for newly elected school board member Tom Prins. He will serve on the instructional committee with Shaffer and Adam Blume, as well as several other committees.