School busses at EHS

Busses dropped off Edina High School students on the first day of class Sept. 8. (Sun Current staff photo by Caitlin Anderson)

Administrators from Edina Public Schools answered questions from parents in two virtual Q&A discussions last week.

The questions, ranging from asking about factors for instructional model changes to ways to facilitate greater social interactions, were answered by a variety of different administrators, including those from the district and individual schools.

The discussions were split by elementary and secondary, though similar questions were asked of both levels. The goal behind the sessions was to better inform parents during an unprecedented school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Q&A sessions were streamed on the district’s YouTube channel on Thursday night.

Changes in instruction over the school year

Superintendent John Schultz said the case numbers per 10,000 people in Hennepin County determine the instructional model in the district, and will be monitored throughout the school year.

When asked whether students could ever return to schools for more than two days, Schultz said the district is working with the Minnesota Department of Health and Bloomington Public Health to determine the milestones that would need to be reached. But Schultz said he doesn’t foresee this outcome in the near future.

Under most circumstances, students cannot switch between modes of instruction and were told to commit to their decision for at least the semester, Schultz said. But if a student needs to quarantine, they will attend class virtually until it is safe for them to return to school.

Communication between families and school officials

If a student has tested positive for COVID-19 or is experiencing symptoms, then they should communicate with the attendance clerk at their schools to let them know they will not be at school, Health Services Coordinator Mary Heiman said during the discussion. When a case is confirmed, school officials will work to determine close contacts of that individual, according to the district’s website.

Other areas of communication, especially for Edina Virtual Academy students, will be sought. Instructors will provide video overviews and daily snapshot videos to students. Additionally, systems are being built to make sure staff is connecting with students who may need additional help, Valley View Middle School Principal Shawn Dudley said at the discussion. Parents can also access additional information about how their students are doing via the parent portal on Schoolology.

Bus safety

Busses are running at a 50% capacity and all passengers must be wearing masks, Schultz said. Students fill seats from back-to-front with seating being staggered.

Seats accommodate only one person at a time, with the exception being for siblings, who sit together, Schultz added. Additional bus routes are being looked at for later this semester.

Drivers also disinfect high-touch areas between runs, and busses are sanitized using electro-static foggers twice a day, he said.

Resources for students with disabilities

Students with disabilities are still receiving support, said Jeff Jorgensen, director of student support services. There is an evaluation process still in place to determine students’ need for assistance. Both hybrid and EVA students can schedule appointments.

Some services are being delivered on-site face-to-face, but there are also special education teachers providing services through EVA, Jorgensen said. Paraprofessional time has also increased, he said.

Social interactions for EVA students

Schultz said the community education department is working to provide youth enrichment sessions both virtually and in-person in the future to provide connections and social interactions for students.

Jorgensen said it’s hard to socialize while isolated, but “our students and our staff are tremendously resilient.”

The district worked with teachers prior to the start of the year on ways to deepen their relationships with students, each other and families. Teachers were also given self-care strategies to help their personal well-being, which allows them to better serve students, he said.

– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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