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“We have to shift to a full distance learning model for K-12,” Superintendent Ben Barton reported earlier this week. He provided an update late Monday in the Tiger Times, the district’s online newsletter that’s emailed to parents and families.

COVID-19 case counts are growing exponentially, forcing the quarantine or isolation of many in the community, including District 477 educational staff.

“Unknown community transmission is rampant,” Barton stated. “We started the school year with about 16 cases per 10,000 residents and our four reporting counties are now experiencing more than 150 cases per 10,000 residents. “

Each time a confirmed COVID case is contact traced back to a school, dozens of people potentially have to be quarantined—even whole classrooms at times.

Last weekend, District 477 hit a critical number of staff and students who have to be quarantined for at least 14 days. Barton reported there are 54 staff and 236 students out on COVID-related absences at early childhood and elementary levels. 

“I’m disappointed to share that we have to shift to a full distance,” Barton stated. “This will extend distance learning for middle school, the high school, ALC, Onward and move all elementary into Distance Learning beginning this week.

Beginning tomorrow (Thursday, Nov. 19), the Princeton Public Schools will shift to Distance Learning for students in K - 5 for at least two quarantine periods, which will take District 477 through at least the winter holiday break.

“We will work with the Minnesota Department of Health and county public health officials to determine if we can return students to in-person learning/hybrid learning on Jan 4, 2021, or if we need to extend distance learning,” Barton said.

Students were in normally scheduled hybrid mode on Tuesday and Wednesday, November 17-18. On Wednesday morning, students only had one morning Zoom meeting. Teachers used student work time after the Zoom for staff planning.

Watch for an email from your school principal with specific information for the distance learning plan. Teachers may ask families, especially in Group B, to pick up additional instructional materials later in the week, Barton reported Monday.

Tiger Club childcare will continue to be offered to Tier 1 families who are currently registered for Tier 1 childcare.  Both parents must qualify as Tier 1 Essential Workers in order to be eligible. The district can offer busing if needed.  

Early childhood programs may return to in-person on the dates listed below and early childhood screening will take place as scheduled. ECFE will resume Monday, Nov. 23. The district’s plans to resume preschool Wednesday, Dec. 2.

Princeton Public Schools will continue to provide instruction in person for as long as district can provide a safe and well supervised classroom environment. Fee-based Tiger Club will continue for already registered families.

With the rise in COVID case rates continuing, the middle school and high school students will remain on distance learning for students in grades 6-12 through the month of December. Princeton Public Schools will work with the Minnesota Department of Health and county public health officials to determine if the district can return students to in-person learning/hybrid learning on Jan. 4.

High School students will receive information on returning essential materials from Trimester 1 and picking up essential materials for Trimester 2 in the next Princeton High School News. Materials pickup will not apply to all students and all classes. Visit the district’s instructional technology website for assistance.

“We want to stay in communication in order to provide guidance and act as a resource for families when there are health and safety questions,” Barton stated.

Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 are regularly scheduled professional development days with no instructional time for students. During those dates, teachers will continue to develop plans for both hybrid and distance learning for rest of the winter.

Meal pickup will continue to be available every Wednesday at the Middle School.  The hours for pick up are 6:30 a.m. to noon at Door 4.  Please arrive early, because district staff shuts down pickup at noon. If you are picking meals up for multiple students, please bring a box to carry meals back to your vehicle.

Nutrition Services does its best to follow the menu posted on the website. Follow the MS COVID Menu.  Challenges in delivery or availability of specific food items may cause changes without notice.

If you have any specific questions or concerns regarding allergens or heating instructions, please contact nutrition@isd477.org.

Earlier this school year the Princeton district shared information about inclement weather and the implementation of E-Learning days if school is closed due to unsafe weather conditions. Barton said the district has further refined this plan and expects to utilize the following learning plans on weather days:

Students in K-5 would follow their “Wednesday” hybrid schedule, regardless of the day of the week of the weather event. Students at the middle school, high school, ALC and Online will attend classes remotely through Schoology.

Students in distance learning would follow their normal schedule with no changes. The district is unable to offer Tiger Club during weather closures due to staffing limitations. Parents are encouraged to prepare for emergency closings.

Minnesota is offering at-home COVID-19 saliva testing for any person who wants to be tested, with or without symptoms, at no cost.

This saliva test is just as accurate as the nasal swab test and is available at no cost for every Minnesotan, whether or not you have insurance.

With the COVID-19 positivity rate climbing higher than ever before, expanding access to testing to communities statewide is critical to keeping Minnesotans informed and safe.

More information about this partnership with Vault Medical Services is available on the Minnesota Department of Health’s website.

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