FLASD plans to move secondary learners to in-person learning four days a week

Superintendent Steve Massey touched on some updates surrounding COVID-19, vaccinations, and the Forest Lake Area School District’s response to the pandemic during the Forest Lake Area School Board meeting on Feb. 18. 

Cases of COVID-19 are continuing to drop consistently in the area since the spike in November. The test positivity rate, which the district also monitors, is below 5% and has a three-week average of 3.45%, according to the most recent data given to the district by the Department of Health.

“This is not a blip on the radar; this is a pretty steady trend of low cases,” Massey said. 

Staff within the Forest Lake Area School District have also begun to be vaccinated through the state’s program to ensure the safety of those who work in schools.

The district does not know the exact percentage of staff that has been vaccinated, as vaccinations are not mandatory, but estimates over half of district staff indicated they want the vaccine. When the program first opened at the beginning of February, the district has only 15 spots for staff members to be vaccinated. With the second round opening, the district was given 315 spots for staff members to receive a vaccination appointment or be put on a waiting list. The state is almost finished with that waiting list, and an additional 200 staff members were vaccinated two weeks ago through an event by Washington County.

“In addition to lower cases in our community, lower positivity rate, and an increasing number of staff being vaccinated, we are entering a much better position as a school district,” Massey said. 

Secondary returns to in-person

In Gov. Tim Walz’s announcement last week about returning secondary learners to in-person learning, he gave the same guidance that was given at the beginning of 2021 with the expectation of returning primary learners back to the classroom. 

“We take that as a nudge and encouragement, if not expectation, that when we are able, we move ourselves into a full in-person learning model at the secondary level,” Massey said. 

Beginning on March 22, students in grades 7-12 will begin attending school in-person Monday through Thursday, as Fridays remain a day for teachers to catch up with distance-learning students. Students will no longer be attending class in alternating groups where one group is at home and another is in person. 

No additional days off will be scheduled for students as the district transitions to this plan. 

The district, and schools across the metro, considered several options in returning students to in-person learning. The consideration factors include a spring break from March 8-12, enhanced mitigation efforts, and taking input and ideas from families and staff. 

The district will continue to monitor COVID-19 in the community and if the pandemic situation changes, then so will its plan. As March 22 gets closer, the district will continue to update families as well as teachers and principals from the middle school and high school. 

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