Updated: February 22, 2021 06:14 PM
Created: February 22, 2021 05:29 PM
After Gov. Tim Walz announced his updated plans to bring more middle and high school students back in the classroom, local schools are looking into that possibility.
Proctor and Hermantown currently offer hybrid learning for middle and high school students and are hoping to expand that but want to wait until case rates decrease to a level that makes it safe to do that.
The Minnesota Department of Health recommended policy options based on a 14-day case rate range per 10,000 people is:
0 to < 10: in-person learning for all students.
10 to < 20: elementary in-person, middle/high school hybrid.
20 to < 30: both hybrid.
30 to < 50: elementary hybrid, middle/high school distance.
50 +: both distance.
According to St. Louis County Public Health, the current bi-weekly case rate for the county is 17 cases per 10,000 based on data through Feb. 6.
"If we can get just a little consistency so that by our March 22 meeting if it's under 10 and it's holding there for a couple weeks then I'd say right after spring break, we'll try to come back four days a week," said Wayne Whitwam, the superintendent for Hermantown Community Schools.
Hermantown is doing hybrid for fifth through 12th graders, with in-person learning two days out of the week. Grades K-4 are in class four days a week. Important safety measures remain in place-with face masks, social distancing, and extra cleaning. Hermantown has special UV lights to disinfect rooms.
"Middle school stays in the same room and the teacher so the students are with that same pod of students all day. They eat lunch in there. You're not seeing the crowded hallway because they don’t use their lockers," said Whitwam.
Hermantown sent out a survey to parents to ask what their preference is. Whitwam said a majority have expressed they want their students back in class four days a week. He said the school board is going to go over survey results and case rates to determine when they can start doing that.
Proctor also recently started doing hybrid learning for middle and high school students. On Feb. 9, sixth, 10-12 grade were welcomed back to hybrid learning. Starting Tuesday, seventh through ninth grade will be welcomed back to hybrid.
"We're just excited to have our kids back in school. It has been a while I know that our entire middle school and high school are happy to be back," said John Engelking, the superintendent for Proctor Public Schools.
The students are split up in groups doing in-class learning twice a week and hope to offer four days a week of in-person learning at some point as long as case rates remain consistently in the single digits.
"This first go around with all of our kids in a hybrid will help us understand a little bit more about what it's going to look like when we bring all of our kids back into school. We're excited and we think that's the right thing to do, to have all of our kids in school. We want to make sure we do it safely and follow procedures we have in place," said Engelking.
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