WORTHINGTON — On Thursday, June 18, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) officially announced its request for school districts across the state to develop three learning plans for differing possibilities of the 2020-2021 school year. The three scenarios are the full return of students to classrooms for in-person learning, continuing full distance learning, or a hybrid of the first two options. It was also announced that MDE plans to decide by the week of July 27 which plan will be used going into the upcoming school year.

In the announcement from MDE, the department recognizes that more information about COVID-19 is being learned every day. It also acknowledges the uncertainty of how things may play out over the coming months. To account for this, the three situations that school districts are being asked to plan for are all to be considered serious options that may be implemented in the fall. The proactive planning by districts will allow school communities to be ready to deliver an equitable education to all students regardless of what teaching method(s) are to be used.

Along with guidance on how to approach planning for all three scenarios, a statement of the possible need to shift teaching models mid-year was made. This statewide decision would be based on what is best for the health and safety of students, their families, school staff and the public at that time.

The recommended guidelines for school sent by MDE and the Minnesota Department of Health include information on protecting vulnerable populations, hygiene and cleanliness practices, social distancing guidelines applying to schools, monitoring for illness, transportation challenges and many other key topics that will all need to be considered when planning for the upcoming school year. Independent School District 518 will be using these guidelines to craft plans for educating students this fall.

In addition to planning for the multiple 2020-2021 school year scenarios that are possible, ISD 518 has also implemented a preparedness plan and a return-to-work plan for all staff. These plans conform with guidelines from the State of Minnesota and lay out the steps being taken throughout the district to ensure that health and safety of all students and staff are prioritized. These plans have been approved by the school board and will be available for viewing on the ISD 518 website along with many other helpful pieces COVID-19 information.

As staff across ISD 518 work to create plans to ensure the safety and equitable education of all its students, MDE has asked families of students who experienced distance learning last spring to take a survey. The information collected in the survey will help guide MDE in their future decisions surrounding distance learning and its possible continued implementation. Visit www.education.mn.gov to take part in the survey — entitled “Fall Planning Survey” — and provide valuable information on the impacts of distance learning in our community.

Parker Sandhurst is District 518's communications coordinator.