Minnesota Governor Tim Walz today announced a plan for all Minnesota early learning and elementary students to return to school in either hybrid or in-person learning. Guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) further advises additional safety procedures and a phased-in approach where students gradually return to the buildings.
Pending approval at an upcoming Emergency School Board Meeting, to be scheduled prior to Winter Break, St. Louis Park Public Schools Administration will recommend the following changes to its Safe Learning Plan:
- Students in grades E-2 will return on Tuesday, January 19 for full-day (7:45 a.m.-2:15 p.m.) in-person learning, five days a week;
- Students in grades 3-5 will return on Monday, February 1 for full-day (7:45 a.m.-2:15 p.m.) in-person learning, five days a week; and
- Elementary students enrolled in the Distance Learning Academy, at all elementary grade levels, will begin instruction on Tuesday, January 19.
Note: SLP Students will begin in-person instruction and the Distance Learning Academy on January 19, due to the January 18 observance by the District of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Elementary families who are not comfortable with full-day in-person learning still have the option to choose full-day distance learning for their students. Elementary families who originally chose the Distance Learning Academy who now would like to reconsider and have their student(s) attend school in-person can also make this request. Please complete the following CHANGE FORM if your previous selection for educational delivery model has changed. One form is required per student. The deadline to complete this form is 12 p.m. on Monday, December 28.
Under the updated guidance, St. Louis Park Middle School and High School students will remain in distance learning based on current COVID-19 case counts in Hennepin County. Governor Walz said no changes to the Safe Learning Plan are recommended for this age group. Walz did announce that high school athletics will be allowed to resume practices on Monday, January 4.
Below is more detailed information about some aspects of the revisions to the Safe Learning Plan:
New Safety Precautions
In accordance with the District mission, we will provide a safe and nurturing environment for students and staff. The following are additional required safety precautions and strategies that school districts must adhere to per MDE guidance in order to return to in-person learning:
- Implement a rolling start process for students to be brought back to the building.
- Execute COVID-19 testing program (training and saliva test kits provided by the State; optional for school staff) every other week for all school staff, beginning January 4, 2021.
- Face masks and face shields must be worn together by school staff at all times.
- When educators cannot be six feet from students (small group and individual instruction), when possible add a clear barrier between the adult and student.
- Face coverings must be worn when engaging in indoor physical activity (e.g., during indoor recess, indoor physical education class, or when exercising in a gym)
- For early learning and elementary schools only: All student meal times and specialist lessons must be held in the classroom or outside (weather permitting). Physical education classes may continue to be held indoors outside of individual classrooms so long as students and staff are wearing face coverings.
- For in-person only: three feet of physical distancing or more is strongly recommended.
Schools must use at least two and may use up to five previously scheduled instructional days for planning as permitted by Executive Order 20-82 for staff to come back into the building and prepare for students transitioning into in-person learning with the additional mitigation measures. This means that E-5 students will have at least two previously unscheduled no school days prior to January 19. These days will be determined by District Administration and communicated to staff and families as soon as possible.
On-site Saliva Testing for ALL School Staff
Regular testing is one of many critical strategies for controlling the spread of COVID-19 in our communities and supporting our frontline workers in schools. As Governor Walz continues to prioritize in-person learning while protecting the health and safety of students, staff and families, we know that increasing our capacity to test school staff is important.
Governor Walz has asked the Minnesota Department of Education and Minnesota Department of Health to update the Safe Learning Plan, directing all Minnesota public schools who are providing in-person learning (whether as part of an in-person or hybrid learning model) to offer testing for all on-site staff every two weeks beginning January 4, 2021, or whenever they return to in-person learning after that date.
The State of Minnesota will supply schools with the training and test kits they need to conduct testing every other week. Minnesota’s nonpublic and tribal schools will also have access to testing supplies if they choose to offer tests to their staff. The length of this program is contingent on funding.
In order to manage capacity of testing labs, each school will be assigned a designated day to conduct testing. School COVID-19 coordinators will be trained to oversee staffs’ use of self-administered saliva tests for their school communities.
These tests will be conducted in-person and will not use the same online format as the at-home saliva tests that schools were provided at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.
With a planned return to in-person learning, the District will resume publication of its COVID-19 Dashboard, which tracks important data including positive COVID-19 cases among student and staff populations, the number of students and staff quarantining due to possible exposure to COVID-19, and the number of students and staff who have recovered from a positive case of COVID-19 and are allowed to return to school. Once in-person learning resumes, the COVID-19 Dashboard will continue to be published in editions of FLOW and the SLP Communicator as well as on the District website at www.slpschools.org/covid19.
Educational Delivery Model Change Form
Families who are not comfortable with full-day in-person learning still have the option to choose full-day distance learning for their students. Families who originally chose the Distance Learning Academy who now would like to reconsider and have their student(s) attend school in-person can also make this request. Please complete the following CHANGE FORM if your previous selection for educational delivery model has changed. One form is required per student. The deadline to complete this form is 12 p.m. on Monday, December 28.
More to Come
Teachers, staff and administrators will continue to work on many other important details over the next several weeks regarding issues around health and safety protocols, transportation, childcare, staffing, athletics and activities and more. When these details become available we will share them with stakeholders in a timely fashion.