In-person learning, a hybrid or distance learning? Districts are carefully watching county coronavirus numbers as they get ready to be nimble.
If some form of in-classroom learning resumes, the need for substitute teachers could spike. If this fall includes a return to full-on distance learning, the need for subs could plummet.
Petitions have been circulating on social media the past month or so, demanding school reforms in Minnetonka, Eastern Carver County, Rochester and elsewhere.
“Social distancing on a school bus, we feel, is going to be a challenge,” said Shelly Jonas, executive director of the Minnesota School Bus Operators Association, adding she and her colleagues are more interested in having students wear masks and in enhancing cleaning routines.
“When an officer responds to a situation, their mindset is they want to control it. That’s not what we do here. We don’t control young people,” said Theon Jarrett at ISD 287. “We do our best to support, listen to them, validate them, give them a voice, then get them back to class.”
State legislators came close to passing an omnibus education policy bill during the regular session’s final moments, but it didn’t happen. Now two bills are being considered in the House.
This past weekend marked the final wave of regularly scheduled high school graduation ceremonies in Minnesota.
“Really, the early childhood years are pretty critical for laying some groundwork in equity and justice,” said Amy Betz, an early childhood specialist at the University of Minnesota’s Institute of Child Development.
“This is as important as school buses, as textbooks, as teachers,” said Fred Nolan, executive director of the Minnesota Rural Education Association. “This has become an essential part of providing education, daily, for students throughout the state.”
State lawmakers passed a six-month extension for all teacher licenses that were set to expire after June 30.
As board members listened to more than 100 supporters and opponents in a virtual meeting, critics held a drive-by protest outside district headquarters. In the end, the vote to approve was 6-3.
The shift to distance learning has prompted districts to invest in technology, prepare and deliver meals to students and incur other COVID-related expenses even as fee-based programs have been canceled.
Assessments related to bilingual and multilingual seals that cannot be proctored at home are now allowed to take place on school grounds. So can certain hands-on course completion requirements.
Many have settled into a new school-at-home routine. Others are questioning whether this new format is sustainable, or even effective. And many are still stuck in limbo — waiting on devices and reliable internet connections.
“We want to make sure to do something special for our graduates,” said Superintendent James Guetter of Red Lake County Central and Red Lake Falls Schools.
State education officials are still asking districts to track student attendance. But they’ve granted districts more flexibility in how they do so.
For now, the board is slated to continue its discussion of the final proposal at its next virtual board meeting, on April 28, with a possible vote to follow on May 12. That timeline could change.
This is uncharted territory for all involved, and students still have lots of questions — and mixed feelings — about how this will all work out in the weeks ahead.