Parents who have doubled as homeschool teachers can rejoice. St. Michael-Albertville School District is rolling students back into school buildings over the next five weeks.
STMA Superintendent Ann-Marie Foucault emailed the announcement to parents Thursday night, letting families know secondary students would be phased back into school buildings throughout February. That’s on top of a move announced before the Winter Break that elementary students – those in K-3, anyway – would be starting in-person school again on Tuesday, Jan. 19 (next week).
Fouth-graders were expected back on Monday, Feb. 1. That has now been expanded – Grade 5 students at both STMA middle schools will also return on Feb. 1, as well as freshmen at STMA High School.
Those in Grades 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12 will all return on Tuesday, Feb. 16, the day after President’s Day.
All classes will return for in-person learning. The District will not be utilizing the hybrid model after listening to STMA parents and teachers. Hybrid – which was used for secondary students to start the year – had students in Grades 5-12 in building just two days a week.
STMA schools distributed a survey just last week asking parents about learning models. Foucault said participation rate was extremely high – with more than 70 percent of all parents responding. Of that group, more than 90 percent wanted students back in school in a face-to-face model.
“Our community wants our kids back. Our kids belong back in school. We’re happy the state accepted our plan to do that,” she said.
The plan will include several steps to mitigate the COVID-19 spread. That will include masks, social distancing, periods where specialists will teach in classrooms and outdoor breaks. The move will happen as temperatures move toward spring, so the hope is classes can utilize outside spaces in March, April and May, much like they did in September and October.
COVID Rates among Adults Still High
While COVID-19 rates in Wright County are still higher than the Minnesota Department of Education outlined for in-person learning (10 cases per 10,000 residents), the state has moved on those guidelines, noting that transmission between students was low ever prior to November’s record-setting numbers across Wright County.
At that time, more than 200 residents per 10,000 were testing positive for the virus, one of the highest rates statewide. However, the rate now is nearly five times lower, at around 42 cases per 10,000. That, coupled with the vaccine and mitigation efforts by schools is paving the way for learners to return to buildings.
“We’ve made sacrifices,” said Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz. “Now it’s time to get some normalcy back, and that’s having our kids in school. It’s something that’s universal; something we all as Minnesotans want to see.”
The issue, school leaders say, will be transmission among adults. November’s rates left schools without teachers and substitutes, forcing administrators into classrooms and hundreds of students at a time to quarantine. But teachers are now on the “1b” list for vaccinations, and many Districts are ready to work with county and public health organizations to hold vaccination events for staff as soon as supplies are ready.