By Sam Jones

After months of hybrid learning for K-12 students in the St. Michael-Albertville Schools system, secondary students will be moving online next week. The decision to abandon in-person methods for grades five and up was not made because of cases within the schools themselves, but rather due to staffing shortages as the school system continues to navigate the impacts of the virus.

“As an educator, community member, and parent, I wholeheartedly believe our children learn best in a face-to-face, in-person model,” superintendent Dr. Ann-Marie Foucault wrote in an email to STMA parents last week. “Unfortunately, despite valiant efforts to secure substitutes in our buildings, we no longer have the ability to appropriately staff all the positions necessary to deliver the high-quality and equitable education our students deserve.”

While the positive cases in STMA schools are still, “relatively low,” according to Foucault, the jump in Wright County’s case rate has surpassed recommended levels for in-person learning models.

In mid-October, the county’s case rate per 10,000 people nearly doubled from 42.26 to 74.2 from Oct. 24 to Oct. 31. The rates within the STMA district are hovering around 0.43 percent of students and 0.95 percent of staff.

In this new plan, pre-kindergarten through fourth graders will continue with their current hybrid classes, and district staff will be re-evaluating learning methods in mid-January to determine future steps.

However, as the pandemic develops, STMA and other area districts have exhausted their substitute teacher reserves. According to Foucault, thus far in November STMA has had over 45 staff members out, leaving between 18 and 25 positions unfilled each day.

STMA teachers will meet for a planning day on Dec. 7 and there will be no school for students. See the modified academic calendar in the district updates.

While learning will go online for middle and high schoolers, activities and athletics in these groups will proceed as planned for now. Weekly lunch pickups for those who qualify for free and reduced lunch will also continue, in addition to distance learning device rentals for those who need it.

Have additional questions about the move to virtual classes? Check out STMA’s COVID-19 frequently asked questions page on the district’s website,

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