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Sixth- through 12-graders to attend four days a week

Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District secondary students will be able to attend school in-person four days a week later this month.

The School Board approved a recommendation from administrators by a 6-1 vote, Monday, April 12, to move to in-person learning four days a week beginning Tuesday, April 20. Monday April 19, will changed to a transition day for staff and no school for students in sixth through 12th grades.

Middle and high school students will be able to go to school in-person Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be distance learning days with chances for some in-person support for select students. Per guidelines from state health officials, the minimum required social distancing between students in classrooms will be reduced from 6 feet to 3 feet, the same as elementary schools.

Most secondary students are currently attending school in the hybrid model, where students go to school in-person two days per week and learn remotely the other days. About one-fourth of secondary students are in the district’s full-time distance learning option, 196 Digital Academy.

Under the newly approved changes, 196 Digital Academy will remain an option for any family for the rest of the school year.

Prior to the vote, district officials said they had been wrestling with the potential for more quarantines that more in-person learning will bring and concerns about recent increases in the 14-day Dakota County case rate per 10,000 residents versus the desire to have students back in school.

Administrators also looked at other factors in making the recommendation including that all staff have had the opportunity to be vaccinated, health and safety mitigation protocols that have been implemented and community responsibilities.

District spokesperson Emily Buss said a recent non-scientific survey of district families received 6,446 submissions. Of that total about 77% (4,995) were in the hybrid learning model, 17% (1,110) were in 196 Digital Academy and 5% (341) were in multiple learning models.

The survey indicated that 65% of hybrid family respondents said they wanted to increase to four days of in-person learning while 35% said they wanted to stay in the existing hybrid model.

For 196 Digital Academy family respondents, 72% said they wanted to stay in hybrid with two days of live learning and 28% said they wanted to increase live learning from two to four days, according to the survey.

“Overall, the data that we obtained from this indicates that our families and students are asking for more in-person learning days,” Buss said.

Safety and Climate Coordinator Mary Thompson said 14-day county case rates have increased over the last several weeks from 25.8 to 27.24 to 32.19. On April 8, the case rate was 40.29 and this was projected to be 51.5 on April 15.

The number of students in isolation or quarantine as of April 12 was 1,038. As of the same date, there were 63 positive COVID-19 student cases in District 196.

Thompson noted that there have been no school outbreaks or identified spread within classrooms to date.

“We are seeing a lot of this spread coming from outside activities with things that are going on with our youth sports, things that are not happening in the classroom,” she said.

Superintendent Mary Kreger districts said have recent more recent guidance from the state to take a more detailed approach for deciding when to direct students to quarantine. Instead of just looking at the county case rates, districts have been told to look more at what’s happening within their individual schools.

“If we find out we have a positive case, we have a team that works with that school team, to really determine what is necessary for quarantining. Rather than quarantining an entire classroom, can we really look at some of the video, talk to people,” she said, adding with this approach maybe they won’t have to quarantine as many people.

Before the vote, some School Board members said while they understand the concern with the recent rise in the case rate, they believe the district has done what it can to make school as safe as possible.

“This decision will rest with the parents, you know, do you feel safe sending your children to school,” School Board Member Art Coulson said.

During public comment, Eastview High School senior Thor Reimann urged the board to stay with the hybrid learning model. He said the decision was ill-timed given many students have not yet been vaccinated and moving to four days a week could increase the number of students in quarantine.

“With only weeks left in the school year transitioning to in-person is a needless risk for a minimal reward. If you vote to send us back, you are further endangering the health of your students and your community,” he said.

School Board Member Mike Roseen, who was the dissenting vote on the learning model change echoed Reimann’s concerns. He said he was concerned about the minimum social distancing moving from 6 feet to 3 feet and that more students were being brought back into school during a time when county case rates are higher than when schools were closed.

“It sure seems like we’re gonna put a lot of people into a situation where they’re going to be making changes of all kinds. For ... minimally 12 days of school,” he said.

Patty Dexter can be reached at patty.dexter@apgecm.com.

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