WORTHINGTON Tuesday, Sept. 8 is the first day of school in the 2020-2021 school year for all ISD 518 students. This day will look different for students across the schools in District 518 with some students attending class in-person while others participate in online distance learning. This hybrid model incorporating in-person and distance learning was created by the district under the recommendations of The Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Education and Gov. Tim Walz.

To support this hybrid model, many safety practices have been implemented across the district. Two of the newly implemented safety practices are the use of face coverings within district facilities and while using district transportation as well as a requirement for COVID-19 symptom self monitoring for all students, staff and visitors coming to ISD 518 buildings.

The hybrid education model being implemented by ISD 518 allows for a portion of students to attend classes in-person on a given day. The percentage of students attending in-person classes is different depending on grade level. Students have been divided into four groups across the district with students from families being assigned the same group so that they will be going to classes in-person on the same day(s).

In a typical, five-day school week, the schedule for in-person classes will be student groups 1 and 3 at Prairie Elementary and the Learning Center and student group 1 at the middle school and high school on Monday, student groups 2 and 4 at Prairie Elementary and the Learning Center and student group 2 at the middle school and high school on Tuesday, student groups 1 and 3 at Prairie Elementary and the Learning Center and student group 3 at the middle school and high school on Thursday, and student groups 2 and 4 at Prairie Elementary and the Learning Center and student group 4 at the middle school and high school on Friday. Wednesday will be used as days for staff to connect with students who may need additional support and as a cleaning day throughout district facilities. A calendar of these in-person days is available on the ISD 518 website.

The first week of school runs Tuesday, Sept. 8 through Friday, Sept. 11. This alters the schedule for in-person classes for students. In the first week of school, the the schedule for in person classes will be student groups 1 and 3 at Prairie Elementary and the Learning Center and student group 1 at the middle school and high school on Tuesday, student groups 2 and 4 at Prairie Elementary and the Learning Center and student group 2 at the middle school and high school on Wednesday, student groups 1 and 3 at Prairie Elementary and the Learning Center and student group 3 at the middle school and high school on Thursday, and student groups 2 and 4 at Prairie Elementary and the Learning Center and student group 4 at the middle school and high school on Friday.

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Face coverings are a critical safety precaution for school districts across the state of Minnesota. Following Gov. Walz’s executive order, ISD 518 requires face coverings for all people within district facilities or while riding district transportation such as buses. Approved face coverings include paper or disposable masks, cloth masks, neck gaiters, scarves and religious face coverings. All face coverings must adhere to building practices including dress code.

Another essential component of a safe and effective 2020-2021 school year is COVID-19 symptom self-monitoring for students, staff and visitors. Before entering district facilities, all must check for any of the following COVID-19 symptoms: fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, headache, diarrhea or vomiting. If any of these symptoms are present, do not enter ISD 518 facilities and contact a health care provider.

The 2020-2021 school year will, no doubt, continue to present new twists in the road hurdles to overcome. District 518 is prepared to use the hybrid learning model to begin the school year and deliver a safe, effective and equitable education for all students. Thank you to all staff, administration, and the countless community members who have helped us prepare for the school year and make an excellent education possible for ISD 518.

Parker Sandhurst is District 518's communications coordinator.