Westonka students enrolled in grades K-12 will begin the transition back to school buildings for in-person and hybrid learning with the start of quarter three.

School officials met with the district’s regional response team, which includes representatives from Minnesota Department of Health, on Dec. 21. The decision was made that same day to return primary school students to the classroom for fully in-person instruction on Jan. 20, with all middle school and most high school students reverting to the hybrid learning model. Preschoolers will be back to in-person learning earlier, on Jan. 6.

Communication was posted to the district’s website early afternoon Dec. 21. Full details about the transition, including specifics for each learning model and each school, can be found under the “2020-21 Safe Learning Plan,” https://www.westonka.k12.mn.us/Page/1274.

Gov. Tim Walz had given new guidance the week before, on Dec. 16, for Minnesota’s school districts to see their K-12 students safely back inside school buildings following the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Westonka had moved to a fully distance learning model for all grades just before Thanksgiving. Superintendent Kevin Borg had noted at the time that Westonka was not seeing spread of the virus inside its school buildings and that the cases, which resulted in a need to quarantine four classrooms and one athletic team, were not related.

But rising case counts of COVID-19 in Hennepin County, including southwest Hennepin, greatly increased the risk of community exposure to COVID-19 and led to the decision to close the doors temporarily on in-perosn learning.

Now, in returning to the classroom, some adjustments to both the in-person and hybrid learning models have been made following updated guidance from the state. Though primary students will be in school Monday through Friday, Friday will be an early release day to accommodate additional teacher prep time as allotted under a Nov. 5 executive order.

Westonka is also following guidance for initiating a “rolling start” at its high school. All students in grades 8-12 will return to a hybrid learning model, but only grades 8-10 will have classroom time in January; grades 11 and 12 will remain in distance learning through January and return to hybrid learning Feb. 1.

Regardless of which learning model is being pursued by their student’s school, families are still able to sign up for quarter three distance-only education. That enrollment option ends Wednesday, Jan. 6.

According to the information posted to Westonka’s website, re-entry plans are subject to change if “significant increases in the spread of COVID-19” occur in the community after winter break. The district has scheduled for Jan. 13 a follow-up consultation with its regional team to “to review the latest health data and to confirm the safety of our re-entry plans,” with further communication to be sent to families that same day.

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