Cougar Connection

An Update from your Mankato East Administration Team

October 2, 2020

A Month of Learning

It's amazing that we've already completed our first month of the 2020-21 school year! Thank you all for your partnership and flexibility over this past month. This has been a learning journey for all of us.

It has been fantastic to have students back in the building and online. We have been so impressed by our students' willingness to adapt to all of the changes we've put in place to make this school year happen. In a time of significant uncertainty, we are asking our students to step into greater responsibility and empathy and they are meeting that challenge in truly admirable ways. We are so proud of our Cougars.

With all of the change, the uncertainty, and the safety protocols that are in place, this has not been an easy start to the school year for anyone. Over this past month of school, we have learned a lot about how the hybrid schedule functions and how the schedule impacts all of our students, families, and staff. We have learned a lot about the needs of our distance learners and how important dedicated time with teachers is to their success. We appreciate all of the feedback we have gotten from our East Community. Thank you for helping us learn where we can improve the teaching and learning experience for all.

In an effort to meet the needs of all of our students, we are making a change to an A/B rotation with the addition of a dedicated day for our Distance Only learners. This new schedule will start on October 12, 2020.

How will this change impact me?

The most important aspect of this change is that the dedicated time for each of our learning groups will increase. Students on the Safe Learning Plan (Hybrid) will experience an increase in face to face instructional time in the building, not to mention a consistent rotation that will make planning and preparation much easier. Our Distance Only students will experience an increase in time that they can connect with their teachers, participate in online lessons, and work through their questions. This schedule is grounded in providing equity for all of our students based upon the feedback we've received from our school community.

Specific to our Safe Learning Plan (Hybrid) student groups:

New student groups have been sorted into Group A and Group B.

Due to the unique nature of the high school schedule, student groups have been sorted by an algorithm to balance the number of students in each course on each assigned day.

This sorting allows us to maintain the individual schedules that students registered for last winter while meeting classroom capacity requirements. Unfortunately, this does mean that students will be sorted according to how their schedule works within the algorithm and not by grade or friend group.

Because this is a reboot of the group assignments, previous A or B students may be switched to a different group. Movement between groups does not impact the student's individual schedule, just the days they are scheduled to attend school in person. Students will be alerted to their group assignment via Infinite Campus and a specific Group A or B communication.

Group A will have in-person learning days on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Group A will be color-coded Green on the rotation schedule.

Wednesdays will be distance learning days for all students. Students who are registered as Distance Only students will have dedicated time on Wednesdays to connect with their teachers. Teachers will reach out to Distance Only learners with schedules for any synchronous lessons and labs or individual meeting times.

Group B will have in-person days on Thursdays and Fridays.

Group B will be color-coded Blue on the rotation schedule.

That's great, but I'm worried about more students being in the building...

This is a valid concern. However, the decision to move to two student groups was made only after we were certain that we could meet strict safety guidelines.

At East High School, our COVID-19 room capacity numbers for standard classrooms are between 13 in smaller rooms and 21 people in larger rooms. Common learning areas such as the Flex Area, Auditorium, Gym, and other larger spaces can accommodate more students safely.

The new schedule was created with COVID-19 social distancing room capacity as the most important safety factor. Each classroom space has been scheduled so that the number of students and staff does not exceed the Minnesota Department of Health room capacity guidelines based upon square footage and usage.

We understand that adding more students on in-person school days may cause some stakeholders to be concerned about safety. However, we can assure you that classroom capacity is at the forefront of our planning for this change. These numbers have been thoroughly analyzed to ensure that we are keeping our staff and students safe according to the most updated MDH guidelines.

When will this start?

October 12, 2020, will be a Group A day.

October 13, 2020, will be a Group B day.

October 14, 2020, will be a Distance Learning Day.

October 15 and 16, 2020, there is NO SCHOOL for Minnesota Education Association's (MEA) professional development.

Starting on Monday, October 19, 2020, we will be fully in our new schedule.

The first week will be:

October 19, 2020, Group A

October 20, 2020, Group A

October 21, 2020, Distance Learning for ALL. Distance Only students will have opportunities to connect with their teachers.

October 22, 2020, Group B

October 23, 2020, Group B

A link to the new schedule can be found here.

Reminders about changing learning plans.

This new schedule gives us the opportunity to make changes to our Safe Learning Plan (Hybrid) groups prior to the first marking period.

If your student has been Distance Only and would like to start in a hybrid group, or if you would like to move from in-person to Distance Only, please contact Assistant Principal, Christina Mattson at or Assistant Principal, Marti Sievek at .

All changes between learning models will need to be completed by October 14, 2020. Please note, if you are moving from Distance Learning to the Safe Learning Plan (Hybrid), classroom capacity will be a significant factor in determining how the student's schedule will work upon returning to school. Potential schedule changes and the need for flexibility to meet safety requirements are expected with this change to A/B groups. These decisions will be made on a case by case basis.

Changes from Distance Learning to in-person will be closed again until the end of the next marking period on November 12, 2020. Students are always able to move from Safe Learning (Hybrid) to Distance Learning only.

What about students on special plans?

Some of our students with special learning needs were able to attend school more frequently on the previous schedule. With this schedule change, ALL students will practice distance learning on Wednesdays.

This means that students who previously attended school 5 days per week based upon their individual learning plan will have their services delivered in an online format on Wednesdays.

These students will attend in-person on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday based upon their individual plan.

Case Managers will contact families of students who qualify for this level of service.

Moving Forward

We continue to monitor and adjust as we learn together through this pandemic. We are excited about the opportunities that this schedule change will bring and the fact that it will allow for more equitable education for all of our students.

Although nothing replaces what we are used to as our 'normal' way to experience school, we are so happy to have students learning with us again. We are a community united in education and we value the opportunity to learn together in any capacity we can during this time.

Thank you ALL for your continued support and partnership.