Liebe TCGIS Gemeinschaft,
The TCGIS Incident Response Team (IRT) met yesterday with our Minnesota Regional Support team, consisting of officials from county and state agencies, to get feedback on and request approval for our learning plan determination for March. We discussed our school’s proposal for middle school, including current MDH and CDC recommendations regarding case rates, as well as mitigations to enable in-person learning.
Also, today, Governor Walz announced updates to MDH’s Safe Learning Plan which encourages schools to expand in-person learning to Middle Schools and High Schools.
Our school’s plan is the following:
- Continue in-person learning for K-5, as originally planned
- Bring grades 6-8 back to in-person learning 4 days a week on March 1
- Wednesdays will continue as asynchronous learning days and teacher preparation time until the state of emergency is lifted.
- The LAST day of school - also a Wednesday - is an exception to this and will be an IN-PERSON day.
- NO week of distance learning following Spring Break
- All students continue to have the option for 100% distance learning.
Families of students in grades 6-8 will be able to request to switch learning models with a Tuesday, February 23rd deadline. Currently enrolled Hybrid students will automatically be enrolled for In-Person and families who are elected for distance in the fall will automatically be enrolled in distance learning. Only those requesting a switch should fill out the survey.
As has been the case throughout this COVID year, our learning model can change based on case rates, TCGIS specific-transmission, and/or recommendations from our public health experts.
In reaching this decision, your IRT reviewed COVID case rates and trends in TCGIS counties and researched the plans of other local districts and charter schools. In addition, we evaluated the TCGIS experience these past 2 weeks with in-person learning, and considered the feedback from middle school teachers regarding learning plan options. We have also discussed the plan with the TCGIS staff council, along with union leadership for both the teachers and education assistants.
In supporting our rationale for a return to in-person learning for grades 6-8, the Regional Support Team members cited the following:
- Case rates locally have been in the 20s for cases per 10,000, where numbers were at the end of September, and the Regional Support Team sees no indication that they will start going up at this time.
- Guidance based on case rate numbers is intended to be a starting point for the learning model decision with other factors considered.
- COVID testing is now easily available for both staff and students to detect asymptomatic cases.
- The State continues to prioritize vaccinating school staff and are offering more appointments weekly.
- Vaccinations for school staff will also become available through Ramsey county, with each school in the county receiving a number of allocations, within the next week.
- Based on self reporting, 50% staff at TCGIS have received their first dose of vaccine, and 4% have received both doses.
Some advantages TCGIS has in this situation compared to other traditional districts are:
- Classroom cohorts stay together and do not mix like most middle schools.
- Middle school students will stay in the classrooms and teachers will rotate.
- TCGIS has smaller average class sizes in MS in comparison to larger districts and larger middle schools.
- Lunch is held in the classroom.
- TCGIS is comparatively small with only 159 total students in grades 6-8 potentially coming onsite.
- There is a larger space (Room 100) for the one larger cohort in 7th grade.
- Most students are driven to school.
- Experience with the younger students learning in-person has been positive.
- Hybrid experience in the fall was encouraging with no known COVID transmission.
- Asynchronous Wednesdays remain for staff to plan and meet as teaching teams.
- As a K-8 school, many families have children in both elementary and middle school, decreasing the overall number of families for potential transmission.
As with every school decision throughout this pandemic, we continue to balance consideration of the health and safety of staff and students with the need to deliver our mission of innovative education of the whole child through German immersion. Throughout we have sought to err on the side of health and safety and the IRT believes strongly that this is the right approach based on available information and feedback.
Keeping “Das Kind im Mittelpunkt” as our guiding principle, we are excited to be able to take this significant step to serve our students, especially those struggling in distance learning, not just academically, but socially and emotionally as well.
Anti-COVID measures at school include all recommended health and safety protocols for both staff and students:
- HEPA filter air purification units in every classroom
- upgrades to the building’s air handling systems with MERV 13 filters for enhanced particle filtration
- opening of operable windows in all classrooms to bring in fresh air when needed
- larger rooms available to accommodate the largest class sizes and still provide appropriate social distancing between students
- free onsite COVID testing available to staff every 2 weeks
- daily disinfecting of classroom surfaces after lunch while students are at recess
Finally, all TCGIS families are encouraged to proactively and periodically test students learning onsite to detect asymptomatic COVID cases.
We are grateful to TCGIS staff members who worked diligently to prepare our school for in-person learning. You can find more information about health, safety and other important items on the IRT Updates webpage, where we’ve also posted frequently asked questions.
Family members wishing to know more about the IRT decision are encouraged to attend our third virtual Kaffeeklatsch on February 19th at 4 pm, as an opportunity to ask questions. Check your Elternbrief for the link.
We appreciate the solidarity of our TCGIS community, the respectful and thoughtful discussions, and the kind support we all provide each other during this difficult year.
Gemeinsam sind wir stark.
Ashley Weston Miller, Director of Operations and HR, COVID Coordinator
Monika Avery, Health Services Associate
Julie Alkatout, Board Chair
Ted Anderson, Executive Director