St. Michael-Albertville School District will join the long list of community schools making a shift to keep students home from school buildings during this latest wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault, Superintendent of STMA Schools, said the District came to the conclusion this week that the coronavirus illness was having too great of an impact on staffing, and that schools secondary level would move to full distance learning, way from the so-called hybrid model the District utilized to start the 2020-2021 academic year.
The move will be made on Monday, Nov. 23. Students in grades 5 through 12 will learn from home all five days of week, rather than the two days at the building/three days from home model utilized in September and October.
It’s a conclusion made with a “heavy heart,” Foucault said in her letter home to families. The District believes learning in person, in the school building, is the best way for all students to learn. However, the COVID-19 numbers within the STMA School District have skyrocketed since the start of school.
“While the number of cases in our schools is relatively low [0.43 percent for students and 0.95 percent for staff], the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise in our communities and county,” Foucault said.
Grades preschool through 4 will not see a learning change. Teaching staff and support staff have been adequate to keep students in those three buildings throughout the fall.
School activities – including football and volleyball in their “extended fall” season, will continue, the District’s leadership team said.
The complete announcement here:
It weighs heavy on my heart that I have to share some disappointing news. As an educator, community member, and parent, I wholeheartedly believe our children learn best in a face-to-face, in-person model. Unfortunately, despite valiant efforts to secure substitutes in our buildings, we no longer have the ability to appropriately staff all the positions necessary to deliver the high-quality and equitable education our students deserve.
Likewise, while the number of cases in our schools is relatively low (0.43% for students and 0.95% for staff), the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise in our communities and county.
Despite our tireless efforts to keep our children in school and to navigate the impacts of the virus, we must move our secondary students to a full distance learning model.
Please continue to read below for important information regarding learning model shifts as well as other important information.
Students in Grades PK-4 Continue with In-Person Learning Model
Page six of the Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-2021 School Year states, “The learning model determination may not be the same for all grades. The research has shown much more limited transmission of COVID-19 in younger children. This knowledge, combined with understanding that distance learning is more difficult with younger learners and creates a more significant burden on families, should lead districts and schools to always consider ways to keep elementary students in-person where it is safe and possible.”
Positive cases in all of our schools are relatively low. In fact, the district-wide percentage of new cases last week for students was 0.43% and 0.95% for staff. In grades PK-4, those percentages were even lower with an incidence rate of 0.33% for students. As noted above, the impetus behind switching learning models at the secondary levels is not due to positive cases in our schools, but rather a lack of staffing. Switching to distance learning at the secondary levels will allow us to shift substitutes to our PK-4 buildings which we anticipate will provide sufficient staffing.
We will continue to closely monitor the case rate numbers in our PK-4 schools, district, community, and Wright County. All decisions regarding shifting learning models will be based on data from credible county and state agencies. Likewise, we will continue to collaborate with MN Department of Education (MDE), MN Department of Health (MDH), Wright County Public Health, and our Regional COVID-19 Support Team. If and when we need to change to a more restrictive learning model, we will give staff and families as much time as possible to prepare.
To provide time for staff to plan for trimester two, all staff will have December 7 as a planning day and there will be no school for all students. Please see the Modified Academic Calendar.
We acknowledge the tremendous impact a shift in learning models has on students, staff, and families. Families should prepare ahead of time should a learning model shift be necessary. We strongly encourage families to have a plan should a shift in learning models be necessary. For more information about what the PK-4 hybrid learning model looks like, see page four of the FAQ.
Parents/Guardians of students in grades PK-4 who would like to move their child to a distance learning model should contact their child’s principal.
Learning Models for Students in Grades 5-12
Learning Model Shift for Students at Middle School East, Middle School West, and the High School
We are committed to continuing to provide a high-quality and equitable education for all of our students. We no longer have the ability to appropriately staff all the positions necessary to deliver the high-quality and equitable education our students deserve. We have exhausted our substitute candidate list and no longer have sufficient coverage in many of our learning or service areas. We are simply running out of people to help us keep our schools and services operating and to effectively address educational needs.
We will transition to full distance learning the week of November 23. At the beginning of trimester two, we will start with staff planning days on December 7, 8, and 9. This means there will be no school for students in grades 5-12 who attend Middle School East, Middle School West, and the high school on these days. Please see the Modified Academic Calendar.
While there can be no specific timeline to return to a hybrid or in-person model due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, we will continue to monitor data and availability of staffing. We will continue in a distance learning model until further notice and will reevaluate in mid-January.
Knights Academy Students Remain in Hybrid Learning Model
Students who attend Knights Academy will continue in the current hybrid learning model. Students at Knights Academy will not have school on December 7 to allow time for staff to plan for trimester two.
Technology Access and Support
Students in grades 5-12 without a device (Chromebook, computer, laptop, iPad) to be used as part of their distance learning experience may request one. If your family is in need of a device please complete the appropriate request form below by the end of day, Friday, November 13. If you have additional questions, please call the school office your child attends.
- High School will be sending additional information by the end of this week.
- Middle School East Request Form: Middle School East Request Form
- Middle School West Request Form: Middle School West Request Form
The district is very aware that the possibility of distance learning for an extended period of time will stretch family resources in terms of internet access and devices for students to use while at home. Hotspots are intended for families that do not have any internet access at all. Please email the STMA helpdesk to request a hotspot.
Special Education Services
Students who receive special education services will continue to receive services as outlined in their Contingency Learning Plan (CLP). The CLP is part of your student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The CLP was written this fall with your input and outlines the services that will be provided during each of the different learning models. If you have questions, please contact your child’s case manager.
We believe that it is important to continue our activities program due to the related mental and physical health benefits. Recent guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education allows school districts to conduct full distance learning and maintain activities/athletics as long as district leaders determine that there is no substantial, uncontrolled community spread among activities participants and athletes. Therefore, at this time, we are continuing with middle and high school activities and athletics. However, if we find substantial transmission within these programs, we will evaluate programs on a case by case basis. The choice to participate will remain with the students and parents.
Childcare Services for Tier One Critical Workers
Tier 1 critical workers have the option for free childcare available during school hours for fifth and sixth grade students who are ages 12 and under. Tier 1 childcare is intended for extreme circumstances in which no parent or guardian is at home, as all of the parents or legal guardians are Tier 1 critical workers.
Please see page 17 of the Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-2021 School Year for additional information and Appendix B for specific definitions of Tier 1 critical workers.
For questions or to register contact Lisa Becker at LisaB@mystma.org.
Meals for Enrolled Students
During distance learning, free meals will be available to enrolled students on all scheduled school days.
Daily Meal Pick Up
Daily meal pick up is available starting November 23. Families may pick up FREE meals at either of the locations listed below Monday through Friday from 11:00-12:30 p.m. One breakfast and one lunch will be provided per student. There is no need to pre-order meals for daily pick-up.
STMA High School
Meal pick up Door B
5800 Jamison Avenue NE
STMA Middle School East
Meal pick up Main Entrance
4862 Naber Avenue NE
Weekly Meal Pick Up
For those who cannot pick up meals during the day, we are offering a weekly meal pick-up option starting Wednesday, November 25 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. at Middle School West. You must preorder if you are interested in weekly pick-up. Students will receive a weeks’ worth of breakfasts and lunches for all scheduled school days. The meal order form can be found on the Food and Nutrition webpage on the STMA website. Meal orders can be placed from Wednesday morning through Friday noon for the following Wednesday meal pick-up.
If you are currently placing meal orders for your distance learner, you can now pick up meals daily or continue placing weekly meal orders. However, please note the time change listed above.
Middle School West
Meal Pick-Up Door O (back of building)
11343 50th Street NE
Please wear your mask and social distance when you come to pick up meals. Meals are for currently enrolled STMA students only. More information can be found on the Food and Nutrition webpage.
We will continue to provide you with additional information as it becomes available. The most up-to-date information about COVID-19 is available on the District’s website. The FAQ on the COVID page is updated regularly.
- Contact information for MN officials: Governor Walz, MDE Commissioner Ricker, and MDH Commissioner Malcolm
- STMA Dashboard
- Wright County COVID-19 Dashboard
- Stay Safe Plan
- Make a Plan Minnesota
Returning to In-Person or Hybrid Learning
There is nothing we want more than to have all of our children back on site and in school full time. I wish I could tell you exactly when this will happen but at this time the future of COVID-19 is unknown. Our hope is to return to the in-person model as soon as possible when there is adequate staffing and when the number of COVID-19 cases notably declines.
It will take all of us, working together, to decrease the spread of the virus so we can bring our children back to school. Together, we must implement the recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Health. We can improve our chances of getting our students back in school by:
- Wear a face covering when outside your home.
- Maintain at least 6 ft of distance from persons not in your household.
- Protect yourself and others by washing your hands often with soap and water, cover your cough, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Frequently clean all commonly touched surfaces (i.e. doorknobs, countertops).
- Stay away from large-group events.
- If you are sick, stay home.
Lastly, I want to extend my deepest gratitude for your continued support and partnership. We fought hard to keep our students in school and we are grateful for your grace, understanding, and trust. Please take care of yourself and your family. Together, we will get through this as a community rooted in our strong tradition of excellence.
Take care and be safe.
Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault