Staff at Wyoming Elementary School hand off go-bags for students as they begin at least two weeks of distance learning following four COVID-19 positive cases within the school.

Forest Lake Area School District moves forward with new hybrid schedule

Less than two full weeks into the school year, students and staff at Wyoming Elementary School transitioned to distance learning for at least two weeks beginning Monday, Sept. 21, following four recently reported cases of COVID-19 at the elementary school. 

The decision to move to distance learning was made by the district in coordination with the Minnesota Department of Health.

An email sent to parents by the school district said in part: “We do not have any indication that the four reported cases are connected, but we are making the decision out of an abundance of caution in order to quickly stop any potential spread of illness among our students and staff in that school. ... We understand that this may create unease in our district community. Student and staff safety is our highest priority and we will continue to evaluate our plans and procedures as we move through this challenging year.”

All other schools within the Forest Lake Area School District are still using in-person learning for the elementary schools and hybrid learning for the secondary schools. 

New hybrid schedule

The Forest Lake Area School Board voted to approve a new schedule for students on the hybrid model for secondary education. 

The school schedule will go into effect on Monday, Sept. 28. 

The only thing that will change is the days that secondary students are doing in-person learning and distance learning. 

Students who were placed into the “maroon” group will be in class on Monday and Wednesday and will have at-home learning days on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Students in the gold group will be in class on Tuesday and Thursday while doing at-home learning Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

Forest Lake Area Schools Superintendent Steve Massey announced the proposal during the Thursday school board meeting, expressing that the new schedule will allow teachers more flexibility in helping all of their students, with Friday being a dedicated day for them to check on students who are full-time distance learners. This was something that was much more difficult for them in the old schedule when they would be in class teaching every day. 

“This adjustment allows us to better meet the needs to all of our students,” Massey said. 

Massey discussed the benefit to the new schedule, which gives parents, students and staff a more consistent schedule. He also stressed that the extra distance day on Friday is not simply another day off and that students are still required to participate. 

In addition, they are also adjusting three teacher work days, where students will not have school, in order to balance the number of days both maroon and gold students are in school. 

The following days will be school days: Nov. 30, Jan. 25, and March 15. The days that students will get off instead will now be Dec. 4, Jan. 29, and March 5.

Update on case counts

The school board members at the beginning of the month made the decision to stick with the model that they built before the start of the school year despite the number of cases rising in Washington County as a whole. Massey had discussed that the district looked at the specific ZIP codes the school district serves instead of the county as a whole. 

During the board meeting, Massey announced that the weekly case count for the entire Washington County area has dropped. All three counties that the district serves are now in the projection that recommends in-person learning for elementary and hybrid for secondary, lining up with the plan they currently have in place. 

While cases have not jumped within the county, there have been some students and faculty who have tested positive for COVID-19. The school district will begin updating the public on positive cases every Friday on its website, flaschools.org/covid.

Massey also discussed what happens after having students test positive, saying that the school went through and did contact tracing on those who tested positive at the high school, and no one experienced close contact, being within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes.  

In the case of elementary schools, all students in the same classroom are considered “close contact.” Three out of the four cases in Wyoming were single-day cases.

The district continues to monitor cases and consults with MDH on decisions. 

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