Governor Tim Walz plans to announce his school reopening decision on Thursday, July 30, Supt. Tim Truebenbach told members of the Big Lake School Board at its Thursday, July 23 meeting.
Three options include: 1) in-person classes; 2) distance learning; and 3) a hybrid or combination of the first two options. Those in distance learning may move to in-person classes if appropriate.
Dr. David Bernard, director of teaching and learning, presented the planning options of the administrative staff with precautions to minimize the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Additionally the school district is developing a fully online or virtual program for medically-fragile students or students preferring to work at home the entire year. Approximately 60 students are interested in this program, which allows students to also have a local teacher mentor them. Students can still participate in school activities and athletics. More information is on the school website under schools page.
The Board approved changing start times for students to accommodate coming back to the classroom during 2020-21. Classes at Liberty Elementary and the high school will start at 7:15 a.m. and classes at Independence STEM Elementary and the middle school will start at 8:45 a.m.
With social distancing due to COVID-19, buses with a capacity of 66 students can now transport 26. The start time change allows Vision Bus Company to sanitize between routes. Board member Dan Nygaard shared his concern about middle school athletes not being able to join some high school sports unless they schedule study hall their last hour.
In other school board news:
• The board approved a memorandum of understanding for August 26 and 27 as professional learning days to help teachers prepare for these options. These will replace February 16 and March 2 and are done with the special circumstances surrounding COVID-19.
• Bernard noted that the school is preparing for E-learning which allows them to use five weather-related cancellations as instructional days, upon approval of the Minnesota Department of Education.
• Board consented to administrative staff making time-sensitive decisions regarding safety of the students with input from the board chair. An example of this might be if a COVID-19 outbreak occurred, the school may have 12 hours to move back to distance learning.
• Truebenbach encouraged residents of the school district to consider serving on the school board. Filing began July 28 and goes through August 11. Three board positions are open.
• The next board meeting will be held virtually on July 30 and a special board meeting is scheduled for August 6 to finalize plans for reopening.
• With HVAC and other improvements still under at the middle school, the Big Lake School Board met for a special meeting July 23 in the Teaching and Learning Room at the District office.