Duluth Return to Learn Q&A
Subject to update.
The Minnesota Department of Education and Minnesota Department of Health asked school districts to plan the 2020-21 school year around three contingency models:
- Scenario 1: In-person learning for all students
- Scenario 2: Hybrid learning (combination of distance learning and in-person learning) with strict social distancing and capacity limits
- Scenario 3: Distance learning only
Planning helps ensure school communities are prepared for whatever the school year brings and able to shift between scenarios during the school year if necessary.
Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year uses a localized, data-driven approach that allows school districts to operate in a learning model that is responsive to the prevalence of COVID-19 cases in their community. The plan provides guidance to school districts regarding which learning model to use based on 14-day COVID-19 case rates by county and city.
School districts and charter schools are strongly encouraged to consult state and local health officials for help interpreting trends or with questions about the local epidemiology of COVID-19, as well as state education officials with questions regarding learning model selection.
- All public schools providing in-person or hybrid learning must offer on-site COVID testing to all staff that interact with students. The state said it will provide training and saliva test kits so that schools can conduct this testing.
- Face masks and face shields must be worn together by school staff at all times. The District will supply masks and face shields for all staff.
- Use of plastic barriers. Plastic barriers will be purchased to support small group or individual instruction and distributed appropriately.
- In this model, families have the ability to choose distance learning rather than in person if they wish.
- Schools play a critical role in the health, well-being, and education of Minnesota’s children.
- Youngest kids are less susceptible to serious complications from COVID-19.
- We have learned how to reduce spread in schools from success in other settings.
- Monday, January 25: Kindergarten through second grade
- Monday, February 8: Grades three through five
What is Distance Learning 2.0?
Distance Learning 2.0 means students use a digital platform to learn from home. This is completely different from the emergency model used last spring, which focused on packets that could be delivered digitally or on paper. Families will be provided with an orientation to the new learning platforms and other information to help support student learning at home.
Students in grades 6 - 12 will use a learning management system called Canvas. Elementary students grades K-5 will use SeeSaw. Both systems are robust, engaging and easy to navigate. Teachers will have ongoing training and support to provide their content through both systems. Teachers will be able to use the learning platforms to provide students with video instruction, help students participate in interactive activities and assignments, take tests, talk with each other in discussion groups and much more.
Learn more at www.ISD709.org/Digital-Learning
The District is exploring options based on available staffing. Staff that need accommodations may become “distance learning” teachers. Teachers may have students from across the district on their class list. Standards-based instruction will follow our regular pacing guides for each content area. Digital teachers will be available to support the learning. Parents can choose Distance Learning for their child at any time, please work with your child’s principal if you want to switch models.
What technology will families need?
We recommend some type of computer with keyboard. It is possible but more difficult to participate with a smart phone. If a family is going to purchase a device, find an inexpensive Chromebook which is easiest to use and manage. Any laptop, desktop, or tablet with a keyboard will also work
What if a family doesn’t have access to the internet?
Duluth Public Schools is working with PC’s for People to assist in distributing hot spots to families without access to reliable wi-fi. Community partners and organizations are working to provide more internet accessibility throughout the City of Duluth.
What if a family doesn’t have a device/technology to access the internet?
Families will be asked to use available personal devices and desktops for digital learning engagement when students are not at school buildings. Duluth Public Schools has invested in 1,500 more Chromebooks to be used to maintain 1 device for every 2 students in families, and the District will begin to move towards a 1 to 1 device inventory. Requests for District devices to be used for digital learning will happen at the building level.
What is a Hybrid model (sometimes called a blended model)?
In this model, schools must limit the overall number of people in school facilities and on transportation vehicles to a maximum of 50% capacity. To provide more room in school buildings for social distancing, students are divided into groups and attend school in-person part time. This approach allows schools to implement social distancing practices and support cleaning and sanitizing.
How many days of in person learning are included in hybrid?
Under current planning, elementary students could attend in-person learning 2 days per week (Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday) and take part in distance learning 3 days per week. Middle and high school students could attend in-person learning 1 day per week and take part in distance learning 4 days per week. Buildings will communicate your child’s group assignment prior to the start of school.
Teachers will focus on relationship building and social-emotional learning at the start of the school year. Students will follow their regular daily schedule. Standards-based instruction will follow our regular pacing guides for each content area. Differentiated instruction and enrichment learning opportunities are provided to personalize the learning for individual students.
When your student is not in-person, they will be interacting with teachers and content through our digital platforms: Canvas for secondary and Seesaw for elementary. Teachers will utilize synchronous (at the same time as real-time classroom instruction) and asynchronous (not at the same time) instruction. There will be more asynchronous learning than synchronous learning. All digital content will be loaded for the week. More information at www.ISD709.org/Digital-Learning
In this planning scenario, schools must limit the overall number of people in school facilities to 50% maximum occupancy. Sufficient social distancing with at least 6 feet between people must occur at all times. If distancing cannot be achieved in a space, the number of occupants must be reduced. Schools must also limit the overall number of people on transportation vehicles to 50% maximum occupancy. That's going to mean fewer students on a bus or in a classroom at one time.
Can all my children go to in person school on the same day?
The district will make every effort to allow households attend school on the same days.
What are the health requirements for schools?
All facilities opening to students and staff are required to have a COVID-19 preparedness plan and assign a building-level COVID-19 program coordinator, with an optional student counterpart.
The preparedness plan must have protocols for the following:
- Maintaining social distancing of at least 6 feet between people,
- Meeting face covering requirements,
- Cleaning of high-touch surfaces throughout the day,
- Limiting nonessential visitors, volunteers, or external groups,
- Incorporating hygiene education and routines,
- Discontinuing large gatherings or activities that do not allow for social distancing,
- Monitoring the health of students and staff while following an exclusion policy for those with COVID-19 symptoms, and
- Requiring personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff who provide direct support services.
More information can be found in the 2020-2021 Planning Guide for Schools: Health Considerations for Navigating COVID-19 (PDF).
How are schools and classrooms being cleaned?
MDH and CDC recommend routine cleaning and disinfection occur to assist in prevention of the virus spread.
- Duluth Public Schools accomplishes this through 2x daily cleaning of high touch surfaces with Oxivir wipes which have a 1-minute kill time.
- Employees are expected to clean and disinfect high-touch areas, such as phones, keyboards, touch screens, etc., and where appropriate equipment, tools, and machinery should also be disinfected.
- Employees should avoid using other employees’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment, when possible, and if necessary, clean and disinfect them before and after use.
- Employees are asked to wipe/disinfect their personal workspaces and electronics at least once each day.
- Employees using district vehicles and equipment are expected to wipe/disinfect door handles (inside/outside, steering wheel, seat, gear shift, radio/climate control/other knobs, glove box entry, etc.).
- All classrooms will be provided with a replenishable cleaning kit containing a labeled spray bottle of classroom-appropriate disinfectant and heavy duty cleaning wipes, or alternately, pre-packaged disinfecting cleaning wipes for use in wiping down desks, chairs, and touch points throughout the day in classrooms as needed.
- Common areas, cafeterias, and bathrooms will be cleaned by operations staff according to CDC and MDH guidelines using appropriate disinfectant products 2x daily.
- Classroom cleaning will be a combined effort by district employees throughout the day, and will be thoroughly cleaned by operations staff according to CDC and MDH guidelines using appropriate disinfectant products each night, as well.
How can schools keep buildings and services safer?
In addition to addressing the health requirements in the preparedness plan, MDH recommends that:
- Schools keep students and staff in small groups that stay together as much as possible throughout the day and from day to day.
- Schools should limit mixing between groups as much as possible, such as during lunch in the cafeteria, bathroom breaks, arrival and dismissal, free periods, recess, etc.
- Schools should ensure ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible, for example by opening windows and doors.
- For playgrounds, in general and per the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cleaning efforts focus on plastic or metal high-touch surfaces where hands frequently make direct contact like grab bars and railings between groups of children. Handwashing/sanitizing before and after playing on structures and social distancing will be practiced.
- If staff observe a student experiencing symptoms, the student will be moved to an isolation area for assessment and if needed parents will be notified to pick up their child.
We will implement passive screening, meaning families will need to check student temperatures and symptoms and staff will check their own temperatures and look for symptoms before coming to school.
What will be done to ensure student distancing 6 feet apart?
Space planning is being done in classrooms and other areas and markings will be used to indicate 6 foot spacing. Hallways will also show examples of 6 foot spacing when walking in groups. Student expectations will be a clear focus and monitoring will occur.
Do Duluth students and staff need to wear face masks?
Per the Governor’s executive order, and Duluth Public Schools policy all students older than 5 years of age and staff will be required to wear cloth face coverings, (unless medically exempt). 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
Will masks be provided?
The Minnesota Department of Education will be providing all staff and students with a reusable, washable face covering to start the school year. It is encouraged that families and staff obtain additional face coverings as needed.
What precautions will be followed on buses?
According to the Stay Safe MN 2020-2021 Planning Guide for Schools, the following safety guidelines will be enforced:
- Per the Governor’s executive order, all students over the age of 5 years and staff will be required to wear cloth face coverings, (unless medically exempt). Only students with documented medical conditions and/or IEP team determined cognitive or behavioral health concerns will be allowed to not wear a mask.
- Clean and disinfect transportation vehicles regularly, focusing on frequent cleaning of touched surfaces in the vehicle.
- Keep doors and windows open when cleaning the vehicle and between trips to let the vehicles thoroughly air out.
- Students will fill the bus from back to front and assigned seats may be implemented based on routes and capacities.
- School buses are limited to 50% capacity for students and a 6 foot distance created between the driver and students.
- The District plans will strive to have 1 student per seat, but in certain cases, based on bus route enrollment, 50% capacity may mean students share seats. If this is required, siblings will be encouraged to sit together.
- Drivers who observe symptoms on any riders will report observations to the Covid-19 building coordinator.
- People must stay home and not board transportation if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone positive for COVID-19.
- Students who become ill during the school day will need to find alternate transportation home.
- If a driver becomes sick during the day, they must follow protocols outlined for people who are ill and must not return to drive students.
- Although there is no 6-foot social distancing requirement on school buses, we will strive to maximize distancing to the degree possible.
Staying home when you are sick is one of our best ways to fight COVID-19. Keeping sick children and
children who are exposed to COVID-19 away from others helps stop the spread of the virus to other
children, staff, and the surrounding community. Parents and guardians can use this guide to
understand when their child can attend school, youth programs, and child care during COVID-19.
What is the current model for students receiving special education services? What if I think my child needs more than the model?
The current recommendation is for Secondary throughout the district to be in a distance learning model, and Elementary will start in Hybrid. Through our legal firm's advice, we have received the advice to stick with the model the district is implementing.
- For Secondary, this means staying with Distance Learning even if parents request additional in-person time in school.
- For Elementary, we are staying with two days a week in-person through an A and a B Cohort.
Each model is intended to provide a safety level for our staff and students related to our county COVID-19 numbers by limiting exposure. We are optimistic that if safety can be confidently achieved we would move to a hybrid or even in-person learning model for all of our school sites.
The distance learning of last spring was a challenging learning experience for staff and students. We were in a reactive emergency response mode. We can tell you we have taken an in-depth look into this and have received approval for our Special Education students to take part in a new Learning Management System (LMS). Elementary and Setting III students will use SeeSaw and Secondary students will use Canvas. We are optimistic this will provide a solid learning platform. Through SeeSaw and Canvas, we also hope to have support from our teacher and our paraprofessional staff. We tried this service model during Extended School Year Services this summer and had many positive results, even with students who may have some of the most challenges.
Amendments for service will be through our IEP team process called a Contingency Learning Plan (CLP). The CLP will allow us to quickly change from a distance learning model to a hybrid model or in person. Case managers can make contacts to make these amendments once you are back on contract the week of September 7th.
What will happen with Birth to Age 5 Programs?
Duluth Preschool will offer programming for each of the three scenarios.
In the Hybrid model, most sessions will be 2 days per week with a limited number of students. We will work to connect small groups of parents to each other to establish “pods” where families may choose to maintain connections throughout the school year.
Distance learning will include lessons posted to SeeSaw, the same learning platform that will be used by the elementary students. We will make every effort to connect virtually with students and families, fostering connection both with teachers and among families as we move through this crisis together.
Update: Tier 1 Essential Workers Emergency Child Care
Community Education: 218-336-8760 or firstname.lastname@example.org
KEY Zone: 218-336-8900 x2
Free bagged meals are available weekdays when school is in session to children 18 years of age and younger.
Parents/Guardians can pick up the bagged meal without students present.
Even though meals are free, we strongly encourage families to fill out the Application for Free/Reduced Price Meals.
- Qualifying for free or reduced price lunch may also qualify your family to pay a lower fee or no fee for school activities.
- Students who qualify take the ACT Test at school for free.
- Families who qualify are helping Duluth schools receive additional education funds and discounts.
- Click here to apply for Free/Reduced Price Lunch.
Questions? 218-336-8707. This institution is an equal opportunity provider
What high school courses will be offered?
Our intention is to offer all high school courses that were previously part of the schedule. Teachers and curriculum teams are working to find creative and engaging ways to ensure schools are able to run all courses in whatever model is offered. Denfeld and Duluth East course offerings are more varied and vast than most online programs. Many electives have waiting lists - families who opt for an outside online program and later choose to come back to Denfeld and Duluth East may find their course options limited. There will be modifications to the courses but we will work to provide music, art, physical education, manufacturing, construction, foods and other hands on and Career and Technology Education (CTE) courses, no matter the model we are operating in.
Will College In the Schools (CITS) courses be offered?
We are fortunate to have college partners who are being proactive and accommodating, helping us ensure that our College in the Schools courses still meet the requirements for that college to grant credit to students who successfully complete them with us this year.
When will my student need to be online?
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 a while. 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.
What if my high school student needs support?
Depending on the type of support they need, we'll have many options available to them.
Counseling - 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.
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.
Will there be extracurricular activities this year?
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 guidance from these sources, the following determinations are made for fall activities:
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
Do districts notify the staff when a student or a staff member reports a positive COVID-19 test result?
Schools must report all confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the MDH or their local public health agency. MDH or the local public health agency conduct a case investigation and identify anyone who potentially has been exposed to the confirmed case. MDH or the local public health agency notifies those who have been exposed and provides them with information about how to protect themselves, their families and their communities.
Schools are asked to assist in the notification process of all close contacts. See What To Do When Notified of a Lab-Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in a School or Child Care Setting (PDF) for more information about the contact tracing process in schools.
How will I be informed if a coworker or student I have been in contact with tests positive for COVID-19?
When a confirmed case of COVID-19 is identified at a school, MDH or local public health staff members will work with school officials to identify anyone who has had close contact with the confirmed case while they were infectious. All close contacts will be notified that they have been exposed to a confirmed case and provided with instructions about what they should do to protect themselves, their families, and their communities. Public health officials will work with school officials to prepare notification letters that will then be provided to everyone who is a close contact. See What To Do When Notified of a Lab-Confirmed Case of COVID-19 in a School or Child Care Setting (PDF) for more information about the contract tracing process in school settings.
Does a school or classroom have to shut down if a student or staff member has symptoms or tests positive?
The first step in the process of responding to a COVID-19 case in a school is to conduct contact tracing to identify close contacts of anyone with a confirmed case who attended school while infectious. Close contact is when someone is within 6 feet of the ill person for at least 15 minutes. All close contacts of a confirmed case will be notified of their exposure and asked to stay at home for 14 days since their last exposure to the confirmed case.
The decision to close a classroom or school is made on a case-by-case basis and depends on the length of time the ill person spent in the space, whether 6 feet of distancing was maintained consistently, the extent of the ill person's activities while infectious in the school facility, and the extent to which all close contacts can be identified. Schools must work collaboratively with local and state health officials to identify close contacts of a case and evaluate the extent of the exposure to determine if a full classroom or school closure is warranted.
If there is an exposure at the school, would the school remain open?
If the exposure is contained to a specific classroom or area of the building and only involves a small number of people, the entire school or program may not need to shut down. However, those who were exposed to the positive case would need to stay home and should self-quarantine.
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