With COVID-19 cases plateauing and vaccines on the way, things are looking brighter around Carver County. As cases continue to change, a new learning plan was released from Governor Walz for any schools planning to reopen. New restrictions in mind, Central Schools have released their new learning model for the months ahead.
In a letter to parents on Jan. 8, superintendent Timothy Schochenmaier outlined the new plan going forward. This letter updated the plans outlined in a letter sent to parents on December 21, with the new regulations in mind.
“Governor Walz announced a significant change in the state guidance for operating elementary schools during the COVID-19 pandemic,” wrote Schochenmaier in his letter. “The updated MN Safe Learning plan prioritizes returning our youngest students to the classroom. Since I last wrote you, there have been some revisions to this plan.”
First off, students pre-K to 5th grade will be returning in-person to classes, starting January 18. Grades 6-12 will also be returning on January 18. However, they will be following a hybrid schedule for the foreseeable future. The schedule will be the same as previous, with students on an “A-B” set up and alternating Fridays.
It’s important to note as well that the elementary students of Central Schools will finally have their Chromebooks. The computers arrived during winter break, so all students will have Chromebooks going forward. This helps out for the inevitable need for a class to quarantine, according to Schochenmaier.
“Because of the quarantining requirements, I anticipate at some point an entire class at the elementary level or a group of students at the secondary is going to have to quarantine for two weeks,” he wrote in his letter.
With this being a possibility for any class, the Chromebooks help out in the transition from at school to at home if needed. Schochenmaier was also warning families ahead of time so they could prepare in the event this occurs. It’s not all that different from the original plan back in August, either. The difference is they are being notified to prepare instead of being caught off guard if their child ends up needing to quarantine for whatever reason.
Quarantining will continue to be for 14 days, as the new shortened quarantine guidelines released by the CDC were optional for school districts. Central staff chose to keep the 14-day quarantine for the time being, in the event students need to do so.
As for vaccines, nothing has been communicated to Schochenmaier as of writing. He does have a goal in mind, though.
“My goal within the guidelines of the Minnesota Department of Health is to get our secondary students to in-person as soon as possible,” said Schochenmaier in a follow-up interview. “Obviously, the Minnesota Department of Health is moving in the direction of getting kids in person with less restrictions.”
Vaccines would of course speed this process up, but until they receive them the school will be operating at whatever they need to do.
As for families that needed assistance previously, actions the school has taken to help them will remain the same. The best course of action for any family with extra needs, whether one student has to remain home or the whole, can contact the administrator of their specific school for options.
Activities and sports have been allowed to comeback starting January 4. This includes sports such as basketball and volleyball, as well as activities including theater, speech, mock trial, robotics, and FFA. For sports events, capacity is 25 percent, translating to 75 people for Central’s gymnasium. Like before, the team and families will be separated into the halves of the gym. In the event that someone has COVID at an event, the team will be distanced enough away that under the new guidelines, quarantine for the whole team won’t be necessary. Other activities have completely moved to digital competitions, such as the robotics team.
“Our main focus is making sure our kids can play,” said Schochenmaier.
Closing the letter, Schochenmaier thanked families for their understanding and hard work through a year that’s been challenging for everyone, noting that he and the staff are excited to see students once again starting January 18.