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Elementary to Shift to Distance Learning Dec. 7

Elementary Grades (PreK-5) to Shift to Distance Learning Dec. 7, Winter Season Athletics at Risk
Posted on 11/13/2020


Two weeks ago, South Washington County Schools (SoWashCo) announced that secondary students (6-12) would shift to distance learning beginning Monday, Nov. 16. Since then, the community spread has continued to increase and has contributed to a rise in cases among students and staff. As a result, we have struggled to find substitutes for all positions, moved some classrooms to distance learning or quarantined whole sports teams. The community spread of COVID-19 has made our hybrid learning model unsustainable at this time.

The SoWashCo Incident Command Team met on Friday, Nov. 13 to review the latest data related to COVID-19. The following decisions and schedule changes have been made:
  • Elementary students (PreK-5) in the hybrid learning model will shift to distance learning beginning on Monday, Dec. 7
  • Elementary students (K-5) in the Virtual Learning Academy will remain in their class with their current teacher
  • Elementary teachers and staff will be provided with planning days:
    • Hybrid learning teachers will have planning days on Nov. 20, Nov. 23-24 and Dec. 4
    • Virtual Learning Academy (VLA) teachers will have planning days on Nov. 20 and Dec. 4
  • Elementary students (K-5) in the current hybrid model will not have school on Nov. 20, Nov. 23-24 and Dec. 4.
  • Elementary students (K-5) in the Virtual Learning Academy will not have school on Nov. 20 and Dec. 4.
What This Means for Elementary Students (K-5) and Families:
  • Families who previously registered to switch learning models for trimester two (Nov. 30) will continue to be moved to their model of choice.
    • Families who registered for the district learning model will switch to the hybrid learning model Nov. 30-Dec. 3 to get to know their teacher before shifting to distance learning on Dec. 7.
    • Families who registered for the Virtual Learning Academy will switch to the academy on Nov. 30 and will be with that teacher for the remainder of trimester two.
  • Elementary teachers will provide distance learning with real-time instruction and support opportunities.
  • Elementary students who require center-based special education services and who have previously been identified to receive additional in-person days in the hybrid model, will receive in-person instruction opportunities beginning Dec. 14. Between Dec. 7-11, students will temporarily shift to distance learning. 
  • Elementary English learners, students experiencing homelessness, students in foster care and students who are struggling academically will be evaluated to determine if their specific needs are unable to be met through distance learning.
  • Meals for all elementary students will be provided through curbside pick-up at designated sites. More information will be shared at a later date.
What This Means for Early Childhood Programs
  • Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) students will receive in-person instruction opportunities beginning Dec. 14. Between Dec. 7-11, students will temporarily shift to distance learning.
    • Case managers will contact families Nov. 13-16.
    • ECSE staff will have planning days occurring on November 20, 23-25 and Dec. 4 to accommodate any changes in staffing, student placement and transportation.
  • On-site Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) and on-site preschool classes at all locations will shift to distance learning on Dec. 7.
  • Virtual Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) and virtual preschool classes will continue as scheduled.
  • On-site and virtual Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) and preschool will not be in session on Nov. 23-24 in order to plan for the transition to distance learning.
  • Early childhood screening will be conducted remotely beginning on Dec. 7.
Child Care
  • Essential school-age child care will continue to be available for children of critical workers in accordance with the Minnesota Department of Education’s Safe Learning Plan. Essential care is intended for extreme circumstances in which no parent or guardian is at home because all the parents or legal guardians in the child’s household are Tier I critical workers.
  • Kids Club will offer fee-based child care for families who do not qualify for essential care. Space is limited and registration is available at ce.sowashco.org.

What This Means for Secondary Students (6-12) and Families:

  •  Secondary students (6-12) will continue to shift to distance learning as scheduled on Monday, Nov. 16.
  • Secondary students who require center-based special education services and who have previously been identified to receive additional in-person days in the hybrid model, will receive in-person instruction days beginning Dec. 7. Between Nov. 16 and Dec. 4, students will temporarily shift to distance learning.
  • South Washington County Schools continues to consult with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) about winter sports.
    • Recently, whole sports teams have been quarantined due to positive COVID-19 cases directly attributed to student gatherings outside of school including parties, sleepovers and get-togethers. The continued increases of COVID-19 rates and unsafe behaviors may result in the postponement or cancellation of all or some of the winter seasons. 
Why the Decision was Made:
  • Finding substitutes for all positions is increasingly challenging due to the current demand.
  • Shifting to distance learning at the secondary level to reallocate substitute teachers and support staff for elementary schools is now only believed to be a short-term fix.
  • Positive COVID-19 rates for students and staff are now increasing due to widespread community spread.
  • The 14-day COVID-19 case rate for Washington County, reported by MDH on Nov. 12, shows a rate of 86.30. This rate includes positive cases from the Minnesota Correctional Facility - Oak Park Heights. As a result, Washington County Public Health has recalculated the data by removing prison case rates to better reflect potential risks for schools. The adjusted rate for Nov. 12 shows 59.57.
    • The state’s recommendation for case rates above 50 (currently 59.57) includes distance learning for all grade levels.
    • SoWashCo is currently experiencing an increase in positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff. Since the beginning of the school year (and as of Thursday, Nov. 12) SoWashCo reports 56 staff members and 124 students who have contracted COVID-19. Just one week ago, on Thursday, Nov. 5, 41 staff members and 91 students had contracted COVID-19 since the beginning of the school year.
To Be Finalized at a Later Date:
  • Elementary school schedules will be finalized before Dec. 7. More information will soon be shared by South Washington County Schools and your child’s school.
Free COVID-19 Testing
Washington County will host free COVID-19 testing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Monday at the Washington County Environmental Center, 4039 Cottage Grove Drive, Woodbury. To make an appointment, visit https://www.primarybio.com/r/washington. You may also find additional testing sites through this website.

SoWashCo will continue to review the latest data and will make adjustments as needed. For more information about each learning model, visit sowashco.org/fall2020.

With increasing cases, it is important to closely follow health protocols for the upcoming holiday seasons. As always, we appreciate your patience and understanding.