The St. Francis School District is preparing to bring students back to class using a hybrid model, combining in-person and distance learning — but that could change quickly.

“The state very clearly said that we have to use the county data (on COVID-19 cases),” Superintendent Beth Giese said. “That was a little surprising for us. … We didn’t really see that coming that it was going to be on us to look at the county data and make a decision.”

Gov. Tim Walz announced the state’s “Safe Learning Plan” July 30 that calls for districts to base decisions on the number of cases per 10,000 people in a 14 days in their counties.

“As of today .. .we could bring back our elementary students full time, in person, and we could bring six to 12 in hybrid,” Giese said Aug. 4.

But there are still two more two-week data points coming before school starts, so if the case rate gets better, the district could bring everyone back in person, and if it goes downhill, all classes could be distance learning.

The hybrid model means students would be in school essentially every other day and using virtual learning when not in school. This reduces the number of students in the building at once. Parents can also opt for their kids to participate in distance learning instead of hybrid learning this semester.

Giese said figuring out student transportation is “our biggest hurdle by far,” and the district is surveying parents to gauge the level of need.

According to Giese, the district is prepared for distance learning and used its federal coronavirus relief funds to purchase technology.

“We have gotten tools in everyone’s hands if they were capable of getting it,” she said. But in a rural district like St. Francis there are some areas where broadband internet simply isn’t available.

“I think it’s more of a statewide broadband issue,” Giese said.

jonathan.young@apgecm.com

 

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