The Pierz School Board discussed open enrollment and other challenges the school district faces as the 2020-21 school year approaches. They know they are not alone, as other districts in Minnesota, are waiting to hear from Gov. Tim Walz the week of July 27 of what school could look like this fall.
About a month ago, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) asked administrators at K-12 schools to prepare for three different scenarios — in-person learning for all students, hybrid learning with social distancing and capacity limits or for distance learning only.
Supt. George Weber said since, the administrative team has been focusing more of how they could make in-person learning as well as a hybrid model work while adhering to social distancing guidelines and capacity limits.
We haven’t focused much on the distance learning only scenario because we did it and kind of know what we’re doing,” he said.
Weber said that although it is unclear which model Walz will opt for, the district’s goal is to preferably at least have grades K-4 attend school in-person daily.
“We’re trying to make it so we can help families out because there is going to be a child care crisis, as well. That’s why we’re going down the path we are to see what we can do,” Weber said.
Although it is possible that Walz may order that districts only provide distance learning and require schools to provide child care to emergency personnel and other essential workers as was done during the spring, Weber thinks that is doubtful.
“I’d like to believe that the public wouldn’t stand for it again. There is going to be a lot of political pressure to get children here even if it is every other day. They just don’t want to go through that again. That’s just my opinion,” he said.
A recent survey the district sent out to parents revealed that about 450 students would be able to get to school even if they didn’t have bus transportation. However, one question Weber brought up was that how many of those 450 students would rely on an older sibling driving them to school.
“Then we’d have to figure out where to place that student during the day or if they’d just drive back home,” Weber said.
As parents have the option to have their students attend school through distance learning only, Weber said one family contacted the school to make sure they would still be able to re-enroll if they home schooled their children instead of doing distance learning.
Home schooling would allow the parent to teach on his or her own schedule as well as choose what to teach. The parent would also receive the federal funding for the student when they’re home schooling versus the school district receiving it during a distance learning model.
The Board discussed that the number of students allowed in a specific grade can be capped at a higher number, something that would be addressed at the time.
Weber said if students of higher grades are able to attend in-person even just every day, he believes it would be better for them if the time in-person time was spent reviewing what had done to ensure they are completing the work and are understanding the lesson.
“Once we have the K-4 model done, we can look at what we can do with fifth and sixth grades,” he said.
Pierz School Board Briefs
In other business Monday, the Pierz School Board:
• Accepted the resignation of choir teacher Diane Hauan;
• Approved posting for a high school choir teacher for the 2020-21 school years; and
• Accepted the resignation of high school social studies teacher Jeremy Payne.
The Pierz School Board’s next regular meeting will be Monday, July 29, at 6 p.m. in the high school media center.