With 14-day COVID case rate numbers rising to 75.80 as of Oct. 15 according to Morrison County Public Health and with the Little Falls School District moving to all distance learning, it is natural for parents to wonder if their child’s school is next.
However, Supt. George Weber reassures that the Pierz School District will continue to stay its course with hybrid learning for 7-12 graders and in person learning for the rest.
Weber encourages people to recall the weeks before the school year began when Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Education first released their learning model plans based on case rate numbers. Initially, it was thought the numbers needed to be followed blindly no matter what the situation looked like locally. However, since then, districts have been able to make their own decisions based on what works best for each particular district.
Weber said the goals remain as before and that the school’s administrators continue to listen to what the parents say. Right now, most want their children to attend school in person, he said.
Goals for the Pierz School District include providing in person direct instruction whenever conditions support it in a practical manner, social distancing students and staff members whenever it’s possible, to contain spread and support the capacity for students and staff to attend school and prioritizing in school services to primary grade children to advance the critical need for reading skills and support parenting and childcare needs.
In addition, the school prioritizes direct services for special needs students based upon those needs and whenever it is feasible, to provide students a school experience that includes participating in performing arts, activities, athletics, academic competition and access to the needed equipment for hands on learning. At the core of every decision is prioritizing the health and safety of staff and students, Weber said.
There are many factors that play a role in determining whether the school needs to move to or from a learning plan level. Some of those factors include the number of students who cannot attend based upon the pandemic and other potential factors, the number of staff who cannot work and the capacity to teach and supervise students, and the case ratio of new COVID cases in the Pierz and Hillman areas.
Weber said there are two categories of changes in which the learning model would change, either crisis related or non-crisis related.
“Crisis would mean the school makes an immediate decision and non-crisis would mean a more planned out decision based upon changing data,” he said.
Weber said a crisis change would mean moving a certain identified group of students to distance learning immediately. Some of the reasons for that to occur are if there are multiple COVID cases in the same classroom, if an extraordinary number of students in the same classroom have symptoms of COVID or a certain activity, performing arts or athletic team are experiencing COVID related issues. Other possible reasons may be when there aren’t enough teachers available to instruct in person, an entire bus route has been placed in quarantine and more.
Weber encourages the community to continue to take preventative measures to help curb the spread of COVID.