The Covid-19 pandemic continues to alter society on a global, national, and local scale. At our local level, Wright County has logged a total of 40 cases to date, with one death and 20 no longer needing isolation. Here’s the latest developments on how the St. Michael-Albertville school district, its students, staff, and families have been affected. Next up, NWCT will share how COVID-19 has affected the cities of St. Michael and Albertville.
The STMA school district has made several changes in response to COVID-19. School buildings will remain closed through the end of the academic year, June 4, and Governor Tim Walz has also closed Minnesota schools May 1 and 4 to allow teachers to prepare for additional distance learning.
The following school events have been canceled thus far: the spring sports and activities season, prom, senior scholarship awards ceremony, Middle School West’s Exploratory Day, music concerts, and many field trips. The district’s regular childcare program, Kid’s Play, has been closed for six weeks, though Superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault said they plan to re-open it on May 4. The district is waiting for state guidance on their summer school program.
Elementary Orientation Days
Last winter, the school board approved moving to a two-day orientation at the elementary level, where all students in grades 1-4 would have individual orientations with teachers and would officially begin school two days after middle and high school students. However, elementary principals said the change to distance learning has re-focused their efforts, leaving them without the time needed to plan for this new orientation. Last week, they asked the school board for approval to push the orientation plan back to fall 2021. The school board approved and amended the school calendar so that students in grades 1-12 will all begin school Tuesday, September 8, 2020. Albertville Primary’s two-day kindergarten orientation will remain in place.
While the popular community education summer brochure is available online, registration is on hold while the school district awaits further guidance from the state. Foucault said they hope to offer a combination of online programming and some in-person programs where they can meet CDC and MDH guidelines. Community Education Director, Mary Ellen Barthel, said they will email families in their registration program and use Peachjar, the district’s online flyer system, to advertise upcoming events.
“We empathize with the Class of 2020 during this challenging and unexpected situation,” Foucault said. “We are actively considering many ideas for graduation and gathering input from students, staff, and other school districts.”
Principal Bob Driver met with the high school’s student council on Tuesday to get their thoughts and input. Whatever the final decision, Foucault said they will take the best path they can for graduating seniors, while keeping in line with all safety measures to protect students and their families.
The school district approved changes to the grading policies for trimester three at their most recent board meeting.
Kindergarten students will now receive a plus or minus for their third trimester grades in lieu of their typical S (secure), D (developing) and B (beginning).
Grades 1-4 will receive a Pass or Incomplete for any subjects that typically receive letter grades or S, D, or B grades.
Grades 5-8 will be graded on a pass/fail basis, while their final “full year” grade will only be based upon the first and second trimesters.
“We know there’s a lot of stress out there,” Director of Teaching and Learning Teri Johnson said. “Stress on kids, stress on families … maybe illness. We can’t control the equity of access to resources. There’s a number of ramifications out there.”
The high school, however, will retain their typical grading scale. Johnson said they did this to ensure there are no unforeseen negative ramifications related to college entrance requirements, NCAA eligibility, GPA calculation, scholarship eligibility, and credit transferability. However, the NCAA has already reduced freshman eligibility standards for incoming student athletes due to COVID-19. District leadership said they will continue to review guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Education and others, and she said they will bring proposed changes to the school board if they believe a change is needed.
Johnson said the decision on high school grades may change if students do not return to school on May 5, as was the plan in place when the board met last Monday. Three days later, the governor canceled in-person instruction for the remainder of the school year. NWCT will update with any changes to the high school grading scale as a result of this extended cancelation.
Next School Year
The 2020-2021 school year currently looms as a huge question mark for schools all around the world, and Foucault said the administrative team continues to actively discuss fall 2020. While numerous uncertainties remain, Foucault said they are discussing many ideas, possibilities, and opportunities.
She said conversations have included discussions of a blended distance learning model for next year, social-emotional supports for students and staff, preparing for significant budget implications, a possible “second wave” of COVID-19 next fall and those potential implications, and many more topics.
“The bottom line is we are shifting our conversations to meeting the needs of our students and staff in the fall by considering a plethora of scenarios and possible solutions, all while considering the health and safety of students and staff,” Foucault said.