Planning for fall 2020
An e-newsletter from Mounds View Public Schools
June 5, 2020
An emotional end to an unsettling year
Now that we can look back at how we ended this 2019-20 school year, it’s fair to call the year’s conclusion unsettling.
Earlier this spring, families and staff were significantly disrupted when we closed schools after spring break and moved to distance learning for the remainder of the year. The spring athletics and activities season was canceled along with proms, concerts, field trips and traditional graduation ceremonies. School, quite simply, never looked the same for the rest of the academic year. It was unexpected, and not what any one of us wanted for our students.
Then, our school community became outraged as we witnessed the unjust killing of George Floyd, and we expressed our solidarity to confront racism, oppression and injustice wherever we see it. Clearly, there remains much more work to be done in our schools, and in our larger community, to disrupt structural patterns of inequality and to embrace diversity.
Finally, feelings of uncertainty have continued in our community as families have been wondering what’s in store for the 2020-21 school year. Will our students return? When? What will school look like?
While none of us has those answers yet, please know that Mounds View Public Schools will be making plans this summer to determine how schools can safely reopen for fall 2020 during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. I want to give you a brief look at our approach to this work.
Planning for fall
To begin, we very much hope all students will return to our schools in September. We want to get back to doing what we do best -- teaching and learning with students in person. However, we do not know if this will be the case, and we may not know until Governor Walz issues an order sometime later in the summer. Despite this uncertainty, our planning will focus on three possible scenarios:
- A full return of students in all schools for in-person learning
- A partial return of students in some schools with a hybrid/combo approach of distance learning and in-person learning
- No immediate return of any students and a continuation of distance learning
September 8 start
Each of these scenarios requires unique planning, but the common approach to all is the belief that school will begin after Labor Day on September 8 as planned.
Just as we experienced this spring, over the summer we expect to receive specific guidance on how schools must operate from public health officials and the Minnesota Department of Education as we prepare to return in the fall. Because districts will operate as state officials require, families can expect that Mounds View’s approach to school will be closely aligned to other public school districts and the requirements of the state.
Participation in planning
Earlier this spring, we used valuable survey insights from families and staff to adjust and improve our approach to distance learning. In the coming weeks with the school year behind us, we will again be asking for more distance learning feedback. School leaders will use all of these insights to begin developing plans for distance learning in the event a full return of students is not allowed. Given more time to prepare and plan than the ten days we had in March, if distance learning is once again required, we expect it will look considerably different for students this fall.
Health and safety
Through all of our planning the health and safety of our students and employees will remain the top priority. Because there are still many unknowns with the pandemic, it’s natural for us all to experience feelings of fear, doubt and apprehension. Please be assured that all our decisions will align with guidance from the state and will be made with health and safety as the top priority. At the same time, we realize that with 11,000 students and their families, it’s impossible to expect that our approaches to school will satisfy everyone. One person’s idea for operating schools safely will not necessarily align with others expectations or perhaps the guidance given to us from the state. We’ve appreciated the grace, patience, flexibility and understanding that so many of you have shown us this spring. We hope that continues into the fall as we all prepare to face new and unknown challenges.
It’s important for families to know what to expect for this fall as soon as it is possible. Families can expect to receive email notices like this at key times throughout the summer as more guidance is available from the state and as decisions are finalized. In the absence of communication, please understand that planning is continuing and no decisions have been made. Questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and families can visit our FAQ page for updates throughout the summer.
As we look ahead to this planning work, we suspect that reopening schools will prove even more intricate than our rapid shift to distance learning in the spring. Despite all the unknowns, we can say for certain that school will look different for students, staff and families in the fall. Preparing for the fall will become a complicated balancing act, considering that schools today have limited knowledge of what the future may bring. However, please be assured that we will first and foremost consider the safety of everyone, and we will share our plans as soon as we can.