COVID-19 is a constant stressor on each of our minds. The county level data continues to increase, which is of concern. Our efforts to mitigate risk are working to reduce transmission of the virus in our schools. I commend staff and students for making these critical adjustments and adhering to the protocols we have put in place while keeping as much normalcy within our school system as possible.

As I noted in last week’s column, with the holidays upon us, North Branch Area Public Schools (NBAPS) needs to make a shift to its learning model.

NBAPS is moving to remote learning starting Nov. 30. The last day of in-school instruction for students will be Nov. 20. There will be no school for all in-school students (PK-12) on Nov. 23, 24, 25. Staff will use the time to prepare for remote learning.

Making this shift to remote learning is likely causing families to experience a flurry of emotions. At every shift to our learning levels, safe learning has been our top priority, which includes both the physical and emotional health of students. We all learned a lot last spring when school district’s had to make the immediate transition to remote learning. Exploring what worked well last spring, and what did not, has positioned NBAPS to better meet the needs of students and families.

To better understand families’ needs, we have solicited their thoughts on ways we can best support them during this time using the Thoughtexchange survey tool.

Executive Order 20-82 requires Minnesota school districts to offer child care services for families of Tier 1 workers. In addition, NBAPS understands the importance of offering child care for working families. Therefore, students ages 3 through 6th grade may be eligible for Youth Connections services during the remote learning period, space permitting.

Staff are working with the families of elementary-age students to ensure they have the necessary technology. Free meal distribution is being coordinated, and solutions for extracurricular activities are being explored.

Our target date for a return to in-school instruction is Jan. 19. Through every pivot this year, our staff has risen to the challenge to ensure we are taking care of the needs of our students. As we enter into this time of Thanksgiving, I’m so thankful for all the staff members that serve our students and families!

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