ISD 728 students to transition to distance learning K-12 and for early childhood

The Elk River Area School District is moving the rest of its system — K-5 and early childhood programming — to distance learning starting Dec. 1.

Students in middle school and high school moved to a distance-learning model on Nov. 16.

“As the number of COVID-19 cases has risen, we have shared information with staff, families and communities regularly, collaborated with public health officials, and worked tirelessly to keep our students in school as much as possible,” Superintendent Dan Bittman stated in a post to the District 728 website. “Unfortunately, all criteria used to determine the appropriate learning model for ISD 728 now requires a move to distance learning for all of our students (E-12).

“We realize this communication comes very soon after our most recent announcement regarding learning models, but unfortunately we can not control the rate at which people are impacted by COVID-19 in our communities,” Bittman said. “The number of confirmed cases in our schools and communities are now double, and in some cases triple, what the Minnesota Department of Health recommends for any type of in-person instruction, and we are simply unable to properly staff our schools. To continue in this fashion would be a disservice to our employees and students.”

Bittman said to protect the well-being of the school community in Elk River, Rogers, Otsego and Zimmerman while also providing a positive educational experience, the plan is to move to distance learning for all students (E-5 and secondary students receiving in-person special education services) on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

“This plan allows us to finish out this week of in-person learning (hybrid), while giving families two weeks to prepare for this change,” Bittman said.

Early Childhood and Elementary Students (E-5) will not have school Monday, Nov. 30, which includes students already participating in distance learning. Distance learning will begin Tuesday, Dec. 1. Early Childhood and elementary staff will utilize Nov. 30 as a planning and preparation day.

Distance learning will remain in place at least through the month of January based on recommendations from public health officials and the Department of Health, Bittman said.

“We are hopeful to be able to have students return in the new year, and will provide an update on a possible return no later than Jan. 15, 2021,” Bittman said. “We would likely implement a phased return approach by bringing some student groups back sooner than others (groups may include, but are not limited to early childhood to grade 2 students, students with special needs, students who are homeless, those that speak English as a Second Language, and/or those requiring “hands-on” instruction.

For additional information, please visit the COVID-19 page on the ISD 728 website at www.isd728.org. For answers to additional questions, contact the District through its discussion feature, “Let’s Chat” at www.isd728.org/LetsChat, where you can request information on learning models, transportation, food service and more.

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