Lakes International Language Academy has announced that it will make a switch from a hybrid model of education at both secondary and primary levels to distance learning at secondary while remaining in hybrid at primary.
The Forest Lake charter school will be moving all secondary learners to distance learning on Dec. 1 and will plan to have students return to campus on Jan. 19, if COVID-19 case counts allow. Both Wednesday, Nov. 25, and Monday, Nov. 30 will be prep days for teachers and students will not have school.
The school’s leadership has been prepping for the possibility of switching the secondary learners to distance learning after COVID-19 case counts within the surrounding counties began to rise over the last month.
Shannon Peterson mentioned the district is planning to stay in a hybrid model for the school’s primary learners due to the fact that they can follow safety guidelines more easily.
“First of all there’s less transmission,” Peterson said. “In the upper school every 45 minutes they go from class to class and they mix with different people and they are bringing their germs all around that building.
“But at the lower school, we’ve got a really good system where they go into their room of 10 kids with one teacher and they just stay in the classroom all day.”
While they are making the jump out of caution, the school has yet to find anyone who has contracted the virus from within either the primary or secondary school building.
LILA was ahead of the curve when they first started the school year by setting up and using its hybrid model early, preparing for the rise in cases. Now with the holiday season around the corner and the possibility of raised exposure rates due to celebrations and gatherings, they are again making this move in preparation that case counts will rise.
According to Peterson, this jump to distance learning will allow students the ability to remain safe after the holidays as health experts expect to see a jump in COVID-19 cases due to large gatherings despite guidelines not to.
A release to parents by LILA administration said, “By waiting until mid-January to return, we are allowing a safety margin for any COVID exposures to run their course so that we will hopefully be able to return to hybrid learning model at that time.”
The statement also pointed out that children ages 15-19 are among those showing the highest infection rate and children younger show significantly less.
The school will evaluate plans for change in mid-January and decide whether or not they will return to hybrid learning.
North Lakes Academy
North Lakes Academy is also making the jump to distance learning after a rise in COVID-19 case counts within the area.
NLA had a board meeting on Monday, Nov. 16, where the recommendation was made to continue in-person learning for grades K-5, continue hybrid learning for grades 6-8, and to continue hybrid learning for the upper grades until Tuesday, Nov. 24, when the upper school will then transition to distance learning through Jan. 15 at the latest.
After the holidays and once the school can evaluate the situation, school leaders will make a decision on whether or not to change back to hybrid or remain distant.
While the upper school is making the jump, the elementary and middle schools will remain in the hybrid model as both have been successful in keeping low case rates with only 1.24% of the population contracting the virus, according to NLA.
According to NLA, the upper school has had more students out due to quarantine guidelines and close contact issues, but has also remained low in terms of positive cases with only six positive student cases and one current case.
NLA Executive Director Cam Stottler acknowledged that the school believes strongly that in-person learning is the ideal scenario to provide students. But he also knows that there is a risk to in-person learning.
“There are so many variables in play around transportation, staffing, lack of substitute teachers, community case rates, county case rates, and others that makes any planning a real-time event that can change quickly,” Stottler said.
NLA says it will continue to monitor the situation and will make changes when necessary.