Elementary schools reopening update

A message from the Superintendent

January 8, 2021

Dear Mounds View Public Schools community,


As you know, the Governor recently announced updates to the MN Safe Learning plan, allowing schools to welcome back students in kindergarten through fifth grade to all-day, every-day, in-person learning. After beginning to learn the plans of our families, we are ready to announce that we will welcome back students in kindergarten, first, second and third grades on Monday, January 25. Students in fourth and fifth grades will begin in-person learning on Monday, February 8.


This calendar and the chart below indicates some key dates:

  • January 18, non-school day for all District grade levels -- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • January 21-22, non-school days for K-3 students -- state-provided staff planning

  • January 25, in-person learning begins for kindergarten through third grade

  • January 28-29, non-school days for all District grade levels -- end of semester

  • February 4-5, non-school days for grades 4-5 students -- state-provided staff planning

  • February 8, in-person learning begins for fourth and fifth grade

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We know this return to school for our youngest learners has been long anticipated and will prompt some of these frequently asked questions:


Why are only kindergarten and elementary students allowed to return?

This state decision was based on Minnesota’s evolving knowledge of COVID-19. State health officials have concluded that elementary students are less susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19 and that schools have learned more about how to reduce the potential for spread in schools.


Why aren’t all K-5 students returning at the same time?

The state allows a maximum of three grades to start in-person learning at one time. After a two-week window, schools can welcome additional grades back to school. Since our kindergarten students are located in buildings separate from elementary schools, we will be able to start kindergarten at the same time as first, second and third grades.


Why won’t students return on January 19, the earliest allowable date?

At Mounds View, we made a commitment to allow families to request a learning model change at the end of the first semester, January 27. Rather than move students based on their current learning model and then ask for changes at the end of the semester, we felt it made more sense to honor all change requests at this time as we transition to in-person learning. In addition, we have made a commitment that we will allow families not requesting a model change to remain with their current teacher wherever possible. Accommodating this takes considerable time and coordination as students need to be moved between the learning models.


First, we need to determine families’ plans. As you know, we sent a questionnaire to elementary school families to determine which learning model they wanted for their student. These decisions have lasting impacts because families who choose distance learning now cannot decide to join school for in-person learning until after the third quarter. School staff are currently working to contact those families who didn’t respond in order to determine their intent. This information from all of our families is necessary for us to properly staff each school.


How will you use the state-provided staff planning days?

Re-opening elementary classrooms to support full in-person learning requires us to not only make the necessary staffing changes requested by families, it also requires us to implement an expanded series of updated health and safety measures. Our intention is to use state-provided planning days in mid-January to coordinate all the logistics necessary to ensure we can safely and permanently reopen our schools. Our staff will be using this time to collaborate, coordinate and share resources across the District so that we are prepared to support our students in these new learning models through the end of the year. By taking this time now, we are confident we can get this right and return students back to school in a sustainable manner for the remainder of the school year.


What will school look like when all students return?

Schools will send more specific information in the coming days to kindergarten and elementary school parents. This will include information and protocols around classroom learning, transportation, food-service and other operations. Our staff are currently working to find new placements for students who were previously in distance learning and now want to attend in person, as well as for those students previously in blended (hybrid) learning now opting to move to distance learning. All of our elementary schools are making every effort to keep students with their current teacher.


How does this impact middle school and high school students?

For now, middle school and high school students will remain in distance learning. The current expectation from the state is that school districts will continue to follow the original guidance provided in the MN Safe Learning Plan. We will continue to work with local and state health officials and the Minnesota Department of Education to determine when and under what conditions we will be allowed to bring back middle and high school students to the classroom. As soon as we have this clarity, we will share this information with all families.

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Our upcoming pivot to in-person learning for our youngest learners is both exciting and challenging. It also will require continued patience, sacrifice and flexibility from students, families and staff. I thank all of you for your partnership to make this reopening as successful as possible.


Best,

Chris Lennox

Superintendent

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