The Little Falls School Board approved, Wednesday, to transition prechool and elementary school students back to in-person learning and secondary school students to hybrid, effective Monday, Nov. 10. The decision was made at the recommendation of Supt. Stephen Jones.
“I hope you know that these decisions are not made at the snap of a finger. There is an awful a lot of contemplation and investigation that goes into this,” he said.
Jones said going into distance learning, that board members, school staff, parents and community members were aware that while some students would succeed, other students and families would struggle with the transition.
In comparison to the transition earlier in the spring, Supt. Jones said the transition this time had been much better. The connection and engagement by students were also far superior than what they experienced in the spring. He attributes the success to the product the teachers have put forth, which has been humbling as well as inspiring, he said.
“That being said, it still doesn’t work for everybody and we still have kids and families who struggle, even as we have handed out close to 250 hot spots, even as we fed more than 800 kids per day, even as we had child care for over 100 students. The fact is that we weren’t reaching everyone,” he said.
Jones said guidelines that were recently released by the Minnesota Department of Education allow school districts to make decisions on specific site data. By looking at the number of cases in the school system itself in addition to seeing a drop in daily new cases countywide, transitioning back into in-person and hybrid learning only makes sense.
Moving forward, the Little Falls School District will also be more site specific in its transitioning between learning models. For example, if the district has an outbreak in one building, only the students and staff in that building may need to move to distance learning, not the whole district. Jones believes it would serve the district’s clientele much better.
“Since the start of school on Sept. 8, we have had two school buildings that haven’t had a case at all, but had to go to distance learning. If you think about it logically, that doesn’t really make any sense for those staff, kids and families who haven’t been impacted by this, but yet they have to do what others do,” he said.
While many school districts have struggled with having adequate staffing, the Little Falls School District has not had too much trouble. Jones said that is because the Board early on approved the district to hire COVID support specialists, who are not required to hold a teaching license, to supervise students in-person while the teacher teaches virtually when he or she has to quarantine for some reason.