On Tuesday, for the first time since November 2020 when distance learning began, students in grades K-12 in the Milaca school district were back in school as the district returned to in-school classes for all grades.

On Jan. 19 those in grades K-2 returned to school, on Feb.1 those in grades 3-9 were back to school in person, and on Tuesday those in grades 10-12 were back in the classroom

Students in grades 7-12 will attend school four days a week, with one day a week set aside for distance learning. 

Planning began in December, said Interim Superintendent Dave Wedin, one of the state’s requirements being that a return to the classroom take place in what he termed “a rolling start,” whereby the return to school is done in staggered increments.

The return to in-school classes was announced to district residents last Wednesday after meetings Monday and Tuesday with representatives of the Minnesota Department of Health and Mille Lacs County Health Department.

When distance learning began last November, Mille Lacs County’s coronavirus case rate was 233 per 10,000 people. The figure has dropped to 20.6. “Hopefully that trend continues,” said Wedin last week.

That declining county case rate is what allowed the move to in-school classes returning, Wedin noting that back in November there were a number of staff members quarantined at a time when distance learning began after the school year was underway with all students in school.

Community reaction to the return to in-school classes has been positive and Wedin said he thinks the majority is in favor of it. Masks will be required, a requirement of the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education.

Distance learning will still be offered, something  mandated by the Department of Education, and there will be some students who do that. “We have a lot of interest,” Wedin said last week.

Wedin said there have been a variety of channels of students and parents expressing their views about getting back to  school in person. “Hopefully that trend continues,” he said.

It’s been a long process to get back to in-school classes, Wedin said. “We have been meeting once a week — where we were, what we were thinking,” he said. 

As it stands, the only thing that would likely send students back to distance learning is a large increase in the COVID case rate. “We still have to monitor that,” Wedin said.

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