Massey announces that Forest Lake Area High School will move to distance learning
The Forest Lake Area School District is switching its current education model for Forest Lake Area High School from hybrid learning to a distance model which started on Wednesday, Nov. 18 and is expected to last through at least Jan. 22.
The school board will evaluate the coronavirus situation in January and decide whether or not they will return to hybrid.
Superintendent Steve Massey addressed the school board and presented the update that he, alongside the district’s administrative team, worked on to switch from the current model.
With COVID-19 case counts spiking within all three counties that the district serves, the district is making the change to help stop the spread of the virus within the community and keep students and staff safe.
In the two-week positive case report that the district receives from the Minnesota Department of Health, Washington County saw a jump to 60 cases per 10,000 people — this number is adjusted without the current outbreak from the prison located in Washington County — Anoka currently has 75, and Chisago has over 100.
Forest Lake Area Middle School and the STEP program will continue to remain in a hybrid model for the time being. However, the district will evaluate the circumstances, and whether or not they should make the jump to full distance, at a later date.
However, Massey wants families to be prepared for a switch to full distance.
“Families should be prepared for a transition to distance learning if local circumstances and cases persist or worsen,” Massey said.
Massey also pointed out that while the high school is making the jump, due to the number of case counts currently in the school, the middle school has the staff and the ability to remain in their hybrid model.
“We expect the county cases to continue to rise, quite frankly, and if they are rising at the county level, they’re going to rise at the ZIP code level,” Massey said. “We are now zeroing into how is this going to play out in our schools and as you can see, ... we’re able currently to staff the cases and teachers that need to be out.
“We’re able to manage the cases that we have; it doesn’t mean we aren’t having cases here, but at this point, we are able to manage that far better than we are at the high school level. Again families should be prepared for a transition to distance learning,” Massey said.
Along with positive cases in the schools, the district is also having trouble when it comes to busing and their bus drivers. The district is currently averaging 10 to 15 bus routes being short every day.
“Our transportation supervisor John Gray and his team rally staff in the department of transportation garage,” Massey said.
The district is using anyone who has their class C driver’s license and is bringing them in to help support bus routes.
Massey went on to discuss the plan for the elementary school model. For now they will remain in their current model that they made the jump to last week. However, Massey again pointed out that they will be monitoring local data and if needed they will make the jump to distance learning.
When it comes to high school sports and activities, the district is planning to continue to allow clubs and teams to meet under strict mitigation protocols that have been established by the MDH and CDC.
Massey pointed out the mental health aspect of activities and the importance that they play in the lives of students. He also brought up that groups only meet with other members of their team or club and do not mingle with others within the high school. Because of this, and other factors, they will be allowed to continue to meet as long as they follow the district’s strict guidelines.
The guidelines they must follow include limited locker room use, no intermixing between athletic levels or athletic teams, wellness checks performed daily, and social distancing when appropriate. These protocols must be followed or the activity will be shut down.
“Our coaches and our activities director Mike Hennon will be very clear with our participants and our coaches that these protocols must be enforced at all times,” Massey said. “If our students get lax or choose not to follow them, we will shut down an activity. It poses a risk to others and we will shut down the activity.”
The district will continue to update families if they intend to change from the current plan.