Denfeld: Return to Learn Fall 2020

Details and FAQ for Secondary Students and Families

Welcome Back, Students and Families!

We are excited to reconnect with all Hunters in whatever way possible this fall. We welcome the Class of 2024 to Denfeld High School and all students in other grades who are new to us this year. Our primary goal remains providing the best high school experience we can!

So much is uncertain, but one thing is for sure, we are here for you! Our teachers and staff are working hard to plan for every scenario we may find ourselves in this year. While the district currently intends for us to start with the Hybrid Model, we know how fast things can change and expect to be using all three models at some point this year.

In this newsletter, we hope to answer some questions about what each option may look like for your student as your family makes decisions about returning in the fall. We know that things change quickly these days. While this newsletter includes many details, as infection rates increase and new requirements and restrictions are given, things may change. As of the date of this newsletter, Duluth Public Schools will be offering full distance learning with the schedule you registered for or a hybrid in-person experience, with most secondary students attending school one day per week for unique and hands on experiences.

We thank you in advance for your patience with us as we struggle to consider every aspect of education and your high school experience during this pandemic. We know things will be different, and there will be some things we'll have to let go of, but there are opportunities for great new things, too! We want your high school experience to be full of fond memories and amazing learning experiences.

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What will learning look like?

DISTANCE LEARNING 2.0

What is Distance Learning 2.0?

Distance Learning will look VERY different from last spring. We're calling it Distance Learning 2.0! Last spring we had to get emergency plans in place quickly. With very limited internet access for many students this meant focusing on packets that could be delivered digitally or on physical paper.


This year, Duluth students in grades 6-12 will be using a learning management system called Canvas. Duluth's online school, AEO, has been using this for years. It's a fantastic and easy-to-navigate system. Our teachers will have ongoing training and support to move their content into this format. Students will be able to watch videos (including teachers providing instruction), participate in interactive activities and assignments, take tests, talk to each other in discussion groups, and much more!


Why does this matter so much?


  • In Full Distance Learning mode - all students will be in Distance Learning full time.
  • In Hybrid mode - students will spend most of their time in distance learning, coming to school once per week for activities that aren't easily duplicated online (labs, discussion, projects, etc.)
  • In Full Face to Face mode - Content for all students will continue to be housed electronically, but students will come to school for direct instruction, labs, interventions, etc. Distance Learning will still be an option for any student, if the family decides to keep them home.


FAQ about Distance Learning


Q. What courses will be offered this year?

A. ALL OF THEM! Our teachers and curriculum teams are working to find creative and engaging ways to ensure we are able to run all of our courses in whatever model the school is offering, including Distance Learning. This means that your student can take every class they are enrolled in at Denfeld High School in Distance Learning if you decide that's safest for your family or if that's the model the entire school is in. Our course offerings are much more varied and vast than any online program. If you enroll in an online program instead of distance learning with Denfeld, course options will be limited should you change your mind and want to return. Many of our electives have waiting lists and if your student leaves, another will take their place in those courses.

We are fortunate to have college partners who are being proactive and accommodating, helping us ensure that our College in the Schools (CITS) courses still meet the requirements for that college to grant credit to students who successfully complete them with us this year.

There will be modifications to the courses but, even our music, art, physical education, manufacturing, construction, foods, and all other hands on and Career and Technology Education (CTE) courses will be available, no matter the model we are operating in.

This is an incredible amount of work for our teachers, but they are working together and reaching out to colleagues across the district and country to share ideas, develop solutions, and create engaging opportunities for our students.


Q. What technology will we need?

A. We recommend some type of computer with keyboard. It is possible but incredibly difficult to participate with a smart phone. If your family is going to purchase a device, find an inexpensive Chromebook, they are easiest to use and manage. Any laptop, desktop, or tablet with a keyboard will also work. The district is working to make sure our families who need help getting a device and internet access are provided with equipment to use. Watch for more information coming soon.


Q. When will my student need to be online?

A. We know that many of our students will be sharing devices and internet access at home. Sometimes a device or access can cause problems and prevent access for awhile. Some of our students may need to work during the day, including helping take care of younger students and/or helping them with school work. For these reasons we will not be requiring "synchronous" participation, meaning they won't have to be online during their normal scheduled class hours. Everything your student needs, from watching instruction to the discussion boards, will be available 24 hours a day. Office hours to talk to teachers directly will be more limited, but all school work and instruction will be available online.


Q. What if my student needs support?

A. Depending on the type of support they need, we'll have many options available to them.

  • Counseling - There are many factors potentially adding to the stress and anxiety of our students. We all need support at times! Our counselors and social worker will be available to talk to students during the school day in any way that works for the student. We'll share information as the year gets going about how to connect with them if the student and counselor or social worker aren't here in person.
  • College and Career Planning - Our Counseling Department and Career Center staff will work to make sure there are lots of resources available, including individual time with them, just as they would under normal circumstances. It's tough enough to think about life after high school and so many things are more challenging than ever. We'll help you through it!
  • Academic Counseling - Classroom teachers will have office hours, case managers and paraprofessionals will be ready to support our students who receive special services, and our counselors and administrators (as well as any other staff member) will be ready to direct you and your student in ways to get support if they are having academic trouble.
  • Integration Specialists, American Indian Home/School Liaisons and Check and Connect mentors will continue to provide support in many ways for students in their programs, too.

Making A Choice For Fall

Families Choose by Student

Below this section is the link to the registration form you'll fill out for each student. This is the same form that was sent to all families via email recently.


Remember that you can change your mind at any time to switch TO a more restrictive attendance model (from in-person to distance learning) at any time. Switching out of distance learning back into the classroom may not happen immediately. You may have to wait for the quarter to end and to ensure there is physical room in each class for your student. (We are building the rotation and schedule based on the number of students who indicate they will be in-person for learning.)


We will make every effort to ensure households attend school on the same days. This means that if you have a second grader who goes on Monday and Tuesday, your 10th graders attendance days should be Monday or Tuesday.


As noted in District Communication, from September 8 through September 18, all students will participate in Return to Learn: Digital Engagement. This means all students will be interacting with teachers virtually rather than at school. This will include:
● Welcome activities with teachers
● Relationship building
● Training in internet safety
● Introduction to new digital learning platforms (Seesaw, Canvas)
● Introduction to content and curriculum
● Setting expectations for learning and COVID-19 safety protocols

Starting September 21, families may continue distance learning or choose to send their children to school in a hybrid model, where they are scheduled to come to school in-person specific days and engage in learning virtually on other days.

Full Distance Learning 2.0

Remember, this is a choice families can make at any time. If you are concerned for your student's safety, you may choose to keep them home and they can still participate in all of their courses via Distance Learning 2.0 through the Canvas learning management system.


In Distance Learning, there will be opportunities for students and teachers to interact in vastly different ways than last spring. New concepts will be taught and learning will be very interactive. Videos will be posted, there may be note taking sessions, group interaction, robust assessment of learning, lots of great feedback, and really unique ways students will be able to explore learning and show what they know. We will be able to provide opportunities for individualized help if a student is struggling, too.

Hybrid Model (sometimes called Blended Model)

As of today, Duluth Schools plan to begin the year with a Hybrid Model after our initial days of digital orientation.


In a hybrid model, Duluth secondary students will attend school one time per week. Reducing the number of students in the building each day allows us to maintain social distancing and intensive cleaning rotations. With only a quarter of our students in the building, we will be able to limit contact much more than we can in a full return. The hybrid model still allows for some in-person contact and instruction and is a way to keep the many benefits of that while increasing student and staff distancing abilities.


In Hybrid Learning, most of the content is online and will be done via distance learning. Students come to school one day per week (more for students with special needs) for a unique experience that is difficult to replicate online. This may include labs, projects, shop equipment use, cooking, discussion and debate, etc.

In-Person or Distance Learning?

It's time to decide how your student will be participating this fall.


How you choose to START is important. Distance Learning or Hybrid?

It will be possible to switch to a MORE restrictive model (full distance learning = most restrictive)at any time, but in order to switch back to an in-person hybrid model (less restrictive), you'll have to wait for the end of a quarter. We will need to ensure the courses you want to come back to have capacity for more in-person learners while maintaining social distancing.

For example, if you choose to keep your student home right away for full distance learning, they would have to wait until Quarter 2 to rejoin us in person if you change your mind. We will be scheduling rotations and class sections based on the number of students who intend to report in-person.

However, if you choose to start in-person/hybrid and then change your mind, you'll be able to pull your student out of in-person and switch to full distance learning at any time.


Things to think about as you consider:


  • Masks will be required unless the student has a documented reason they cannot wear a mask. Documentation must come from an IEP team or medical/mental health professional.
  • Distance Learning requires students to stay connected and maintain a routine. We'll do our best to help from here and will provide as much support as possible, but we can't come to your home to make sure they go online.
  • Interacting with peers will be different this year, no matter what you choose! There will be opportunities in distance learning and restrictions in person. It's important for your student to stay connected no matter what.
Return to Learn: Click for Student Registration Form

Please help us prepare for everyone's safety, health and educational support. This data will help staff buildings, distribute technology, plan transportation, classroom schedules and much more. (You were also emailed the form.)

STUDENTS RECEIVING SPECIAL SERVICES (IEP - Individual Learning Plans): Tentative Plans for Hybrid Attendance and Support

It is critical that we are able to provide the extra support our students who receive special services will need.


If your student is on an IEP but spends most of their day in general education classrooms (Setting I or II):

  • In a hybrid model, they would be able to come to school for a second day, to spend time with special education staff. On the second day, they wouldn't follow their class schedule but would spend time in resource rooms receiving support with their individual goals and with any Distance Learning for all classes. They will also be able to spend time with any related services identified on their IEP (ie. Social Worker, Speech, DAPE, OT, PT, etc.) on that second day so they wouldn't miss class time on their "group day."
  • In full Distance Learning, they will still receive additional support from resource teachers, their case manager, paraprofessionals, and other related services. This could include online meetings, modification and accommodate for distance learning work, communicating with their general education teachers, phone calls, etc.



If your student is on an IEP and spends most of their day in special education classrooms (Setting III):

  • A case manager, administrator, or specialist will be individually contacting each of the families with students in Setting III programs, including DCD, SMI, and ASD.
  • Students in our Setting III Programs may be able to attend up to four days per week. Families can choose less than four days, as well. Many students receive special services transportation, which would continue.
  • Wednesdays we will have no students in the building to allow for cleaning and sanitizing.
  • We will be providing protective equipment to our staff knowing that many students in a Setting III programs will be exempt from wearing masks. This additional equipment will provide another layer of safety for our staff and students.
  • Families of students who are in Setting III programs may choose full Distance Learning. This year we will be able to provide much more interactive and appropriate education using See Saw and/or Canvas for communication, services, and content.
  • Individual student considerations are critical. School staff are willing to work with the families to help determine which option may be best.
  • Making changes to these decisions can be fluid with our students in Setting III programs. Case managers will stay in close contact with families.

Extracurricular Activities

ISD 709, the Minnesota Departments of Education and Health, and the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) provide guidance in a number of ways. Based on this guidance from all of those sources, Duluth Public Schools has made the following determinations for fall activities:


High School-

General guidelines: no captains practices, no club team use of facilities, no open gyms, weight room closed, no fitness workouts/non-sports training, locker rooms closed

We do not have the capacity to offer practice opportunities for spring sports this fall based on all of our requirements and restrictions.

  • Theater: virtual to start, any in-person possibilities TBD
  • Robotics: virtual to start, any in-person possibilities TBD
  • Debate: virtual to start, any in-person possibilities TBD
  • Football: limited practice in fall, season moved to March-May
  • Volleyball: limited practice in fall, season moved to March-May
  • Girls' Swimming and Diving: no spectators, limited participation in competition
  • Girls' Tennis: limited participation in competition
  • Boys' and Girls' Soccer: limited participation in competition
  • Clubs: virtual if possible, in-person contact TBD

Participation

  • Grades 7-12 are still able to participate
  • Every effort will be made to keep 7th and 8th graders separated if possible for practice/travel/meets
  • Sports must set a new max capacity this year based on how many athletes they can safely support for practices, meets, transportation, etc.
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Masks Will Be Required

  • The state is sending one cloth mask for each student and staff member.
  • We will have paper masks on hands if a student forgets theirs at home one day.
  • Only students with documented medical conditions and/or IEP team determined cognitive or behavioral health concerns will be allowed to not wear a mask.
  • Masks are required in school and on buses for all who wish to attend school in person .