The Orono Public School District Board of Education met for its last meeting for the 2019-2020 academic year on Monday, June 1.

Superintendent Karen Orcutt began her report by thanking all the students, teachers, custodians, paraprofessionals, child care workers and the administration for their work during the school year.

“I want to praise and thank all of our students and congratulate all of our students for their remarkable adaptability and tenacity throughout distance learning and the end of the school year,” she said.

As the school year came to a close, Orcutt said the board is jumping right back into planning for the 2020-21 school year. Currently, school districts do not know if in-person learning will continue or if students will begin the school year with distance learning.

“We want them back terribly. Right now we do not know what our situation will be,” Orcutt said. Currently, school districts are expecting direction from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Department of Education by the end of July. In the meantime, Orcutt said the district will be “building scenarios for what-ifs.”

Director of Learning and Accountability Aaron Ruhland presented a distance learning year-end report. The distance learning model the school district implemented was built on flexibility for teachers, parents and students. To achieve flexibility, on-demand resources are available for students or parents to access at any point. This also included flexibility with assignments, small group and individual work.

“One of the things technology does well is it provides opportunities for on-demand learning, for learning that can go at a different pace, for a schedule that might work for a family where both parents are working or for teachers who have their children at home. The model was built on flexibility, Ruhland said.

The system of support that was established for distance learning was crucial, according to Ruhland. Social and emotional learning as well as resources for students were continued to be made available during distance learning.

A new challenge was technology support as well as the new way the district is providing food, materials and resources. Ruhland said many people jumped in to help families.

The district survey was sent out to parents in May and included four open questions: What’s working well? What’s not working well? What advice, thoughts, perspectives and any feedback. Approximately 589 or 20 percent of all parents responded either very positively or negatively.

“When you think about the stress, the change and to some degree, the anxiety that people have right now about so many facets of our lives, I think that really played out in the survey. The survey is consistent with what we’ve heard from parents throughout this experience,” Ruhland said.

Orono Community Education is currently evaluating summer programs and making adjustments to meet state guidelines according to Melanie DeLuca, director of community education.

“Many activities will not be possible, such as those that are in large-group settings; others may be held with small, predictable group sizes following state health and safety protocols. We are also exploring ways to offer some programming via distance learning,” she said. “We will continue to provide childcare, based on availability per state prioritization guidance, for emergency workers and other families returning to work as it is a critical need and continues to be a top priority.”

Those looking to register for upcoming camps, classes or programs can visit www.oronocommunityed.com. Online classes are also available as well as a payment plan option.

The next regular meeting will be Monday, August 17, 2020 at 7 p.m.

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