The Osseo School Board met during a work session on April 14 to receive an overview of how the district has been handling the COVID-19 pandemic. This was also the board’s first remote video work session.
Osseo School Board Chair Mike Ostaffe said, “Superintendent Cory McIntyre and his cabinet presented the board with an overview of the work being done by the district to prepare and support our students, families, and staff during the school shut-down ordered by the governor.”
This overview included hearing about distance learning, health services, special education and 504 services, mental health support resources, homelessness, English learners, tribal considerations, early learning, care for children of emergency workers, nutrition and food service, community outreach, communications plan, human resources and the budget.
“This is a much larger project than just developing and delivering a relevant and comprehensive distance learning plan to our students,” Ostaffe said.
Distance learning so far
There were some key highlights from the work session.
Ostaffe said the teachers for grades K-3 created, assembled and delivered more than 3,000 study boards to students to get them started during the first two weeks of distance learning. He added the study boards for the next two weeks were being distributed.
The district’s tech team prepared more than 3,000 iPads for use by children in grades K-3, in addition to supporting the 1:1 device program for all students in grades 4-12.
“We are aware of almost 300 families that do not have internet access, so we are working hard to identify partnerships with service providers and community organizations to arrange internet access for those families,” Ostaffe said.
“We have undertaken a tremendous effort to provide distance learning for all of our students over these past two weeks. As a district, we were more prepared than most as we had an e-learning plan in a place that was approved by the school board in alignment with state statute and tested during a snowstorm earlier this year,” he added. “We have been seeing the majority of our students logging on and engaging with our teachers. As we learn from the first two weeks, our teachers and leaders are working to make the changes necessary to improve the experience for everyone involved.”
Regularly, McIntyre has been sending broadcast phone and email messages to families. The district is also using social media, the district website and other communication avenues to inform families on updates during this time of school closures.
The district is using its nutrition staff from across the district to provide over 2,500 meals to kids each school day at 13 distribution sites across the district. Meals are available Monday to Friday between 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
Bus drivers are also delivering meals, technology and learning materials to hundreds of families daily.
Ostaffe said the district is also providing emergency child care to approximately 100 children of parents who are emergency responders, health care workers or others covered under the governor’s proclamation. These students are going to Edinbrook, Oak View and Weaver Lake Elementary schools.
The nursing staff worked diligently to get all of the necessary medicines back to parents for use during the school closure period. “They are also working at the emergency child care sites to screen and protect our employees and children,” Ostaffe added.
During the work session, the School Board heard about the budget. According to Ostaffe, there will be a significant negative budget impact around the district’s fee-based community education services, mainly in the school-based child care programs. He also mentioned there may be some savings in the general education fund in utility costs and transportation contract costs.
“We are working closely with the Minnesota Department of Education and other districts to create fair and comprehensive assessments for our students,” Ostaffe said. “A district survey was distributed [last] week in order to seek feedback from students, parents, and staff.”
The anecdotal feedback the district has received so far from parents has been encouraging.
“Parents are very understanding and supportive of staff’s work to pivot – within a matter of days – from a brick-and-mortar model to a distance learning model,” he said. “We are also hearing from families that this new way of doing school is challenging for them, and they are developing even more respect for teachers who do this every day with an entire classroom of students.”
Ostaffe acknowledges these are challenging times for everyone.
“We promise you that our staff is working hard to adapt to the situation, improvise creative solutions, overcome the challenges, and provide our students – your children – a safe, engaging, effective, and successful learning experience,” he said. “We miss your children and would prefer to see their smiling faces back in our classrooms. We are looking forward to the day that is possible.”
As for commencement ceremony plans for graduating high school seniors, the previous ceremony plans are not possible. The University of Minnesota canceled all events at Mariucci Arena for June. The district previously had commencement plans at the arena on June 6 for all three high schools.
“The district is working on alternate plans to honor the hard work and achievement of the graduating seniors of the Class of 2020,” he said.
“As board chair, I would like to personally thank all of our staff and building and district leaders who have worked tirelessly to provide education, nutrition, and a safe environment to our students and families in ways and scope not imaginable a month ago,” Ostaffe said. “We are on this journey together with our families and communities and I look forward to successfully meeting all of the challenges that we will face.”
Follow the Osseo-Maple Grove Press on Facebook @OsseoMapleGrovePress