Interest in distant learning tops out at 14 percent for start 2020-21 school year

by Jim Boyle


About 13% of Elk River area families and students expressed an interest in distance learning earlier this summer.

That number was expected to rise by the time District 728’s deadline came and went on Aug. 23.

It grew, but only by 1%.

About 14% requested distance learning, leaving the number of in-person and hybrid-model learners at 86%.

When school begins on Sept. 8, District 728 students in early childhood programs and elementary school will return to in-person learning.

Secondary students — those in middle school and high school — will be on A- and B-day schedules. Half will go to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays with distance learning on the days they are not in school. The others will go to school on Mondays and Wednesdays and do distance learning on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Both groups will have distance learning on Fridays, and the schools will be cleaned and prepared for the following week.

Superintendent Dan Bittman shared at the Elk River Area School Board meeting on Aug. 24 some of the most common questions fielded as time ran out on families’ time to make decisions.

The first four questions spoke to students and families who were considering signing up for distance learning model for the start of their school year.

The deadline for electing distance learning was midnight on Sunday. Here’s what was on some these residents’ minds based on their questions.

1. If I choose distance learning, do I need to be at my computer and available during school hours on the days that I have distance learning?

 No, in distance learning, the guidelines will be posted but the flexibility of when a student completes his or her work is up to them.  For attendance reasons, schools and teachers must “engage” with students daily.  Engagement can be responding to an online article, answering questions, showing progress on a project-based learning assignment, etc.

2. Can I continue to work my job and participate in distance learning?

Yes. While distance learning will be more rigorous than last year and include daily engagement and deadlines, students will have flexibility as to when they will complete the work.  

3. Will my child still be able to participate in honors-type classes such as Advanced Placement?

Yes, the Elk River Area School District plans to continue to offer these classes regardless of whether a student is participating at school or at home.

4. Can I choose to send my child to school now, but later change to distance learning?


5. What happens if a child or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?

ISD 728 health staff will work directly with the individual and the Minnesota Department of Health. Typically, individuals who test positive will be required to stay home at least 10 days since symptoms first appeared and until no fever exists for at least 24 hours without medication and improvement of all other symptoms. Siblings and household members also stay home for 14 days.                           

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