Students in Fridley Public Schools can plan to return to class two days a week this fall and spend the balance of the week in distance learning.

The district’s hybrid approach will bring one group of students in on Monday and Tuesday, with the other coming in Thursday and Friday, according to John Piotraschke, director of teaching and learning for the district. The plan could change, however, depending on the rate of COVID-19 infections in the county.

Parents also have the option for their students to participate in distance learning full time.

The district’s plan is based on guidance the state provided to districts July 30 that calls for various models depending on the number of COVID-19 cases in their area.

Superintendent Kim Hiel said she was pleasantly surprised that the state’s guidance called for decisions to be based on data but also allowed for some local decision-making.

The district is in the process of surveying parents and asking them to choose whether to participate in the hybrid model or distance learning. For the sake of planning, students that enroll full time in distance learning are asked to commit to a semester of distance learning before requesting a change.

Since last spring the district has made changes to its distance learning curriculum.

Students in grades six through 12 will use a new online learning system the district purchased over the summer. Each morning students will log in, and a dashboard will tell them what they need to do that day. There will be four to six hours of content presentation and activities based on the course schedule.

For kindergartners through fifth-graders, distance learning will be different; it will “mirror” the curriculum of the hybrid model.

“Those kids will have daily interaction with a licensed grade-school level teacher,” Piotraschke said.

Hiel said the district adjusted its distance learning plan based on its experience in the spring and feedback from families.

“We worked very hard to add even more rigor and more options for our families,” she said.

Getting technology to students hasn’t been a problem, Hiel said, because the district was already on track to provide Chromebooks to all students this fall. The pandemic just accelerated the timeline slightly.

Hiel expects staffing to be one of the most significant challenges the district will face this fall, and it is currently evaluating its staffing needs and restrictions.

The district is also warning the community that there will be changes but is promising to stay in communication with experts and to do its best to serve students while protecting children and staff members.

“There are tough decisions that have to be made, but we are doing them with safety as the primary focus across the board,” Communications and Community Relations Director Jael McLemore said.


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