Students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District can expect to spend two days a week in class, with the remainder of the week dedicated to distance learning at the beginning of this school year.
The district is gearing up for a hybrid model of eduction for the 2020-2021 school year, though plans may change depending on the rate of COVID-19 cases in Anoka and Hennepin counties.
The hybrid model means schools will operate at up to 50% capacity. Students will attend class in person on Tuesdays and Wednesdays or Thursdays and Fridays. Another three days will be online. Every Monday all students will be online, because there are already seven Mondays in the calendar that have no school, Superintendent David Law said.
Currently the district is breaking down students by family, to ensure that siblings will be going to school on the same days, Law said.
“If you’re a senior in high school and you have kindergarten-level brother you will be in school, in person, the same days as your sibling,” Law said. “That allows families to use older siblings to babysit siblings or help with schoolwork, and it allows families to coordinate child care on the same day.”
The district will encourage social distancing and require masks in schools. Passing time between classes will be staggered to decrease the number of students in the hallway, according to Law.
The district will have a mask for every student. Law said he expects most people already have masks for their kids, but if someone loses a mask or forgets it, their school will provide one.
Per state guidelines, Anoka-Hennepin is basing its plan on the most recent two-week data of cases per 10,000 people in the county. If that count increases or decreases, the district may change which model it uses. If that happens, the district will take a day off to transition to the new model before students return to school, according to Law.
The district is also looking at data more specific than county-level information. If an outbreak occurs in Hennepin or Anoka county, the district may not change its hybrid model if the outbreaks are localized to areas outside its boundaries.
“For example, if in Hennepin County the outbreak of cases is in Robbinsdale, we might not change our district’s hybrid model,” Law said.
When using distance learning, the district plans to increase direct instruction for students. That means more class time dedicated to interactive Zoom calls or teachers being available for questions following a prerecorded lesson.
“A lot of our elementary parents and our secondary parents felt like their students were disconnected from instruction — where work was handed out and kids didn’t have enough opportunities to see exactly what was expected,” Law said.
Staff and teachers who are uncomfortable returning to in-person classes due to health concerns have an opportunity to find accommodation, according to Law. The district has spent the last couple of weeks hearing from teachers and working with them.
The state released a safe learning plan July 30 that outlines procedures schools should take when reopening. In that plan is a recommendation of policy options based on a 14-day case rate in the county.
Anoka County’s case rate increased to 15.5 cases per 10,000 people between July 5 and 18, according to state data released July 30. Hennepin County had a rate of almost 21 cases per 10,000 people, according to the data.
“The best thing we can do to keep our kids in school is to keep our county healthy,” Law said.