Fall 2020 Learning Plan Preview
Liebe TCGIS-Gemeinschaft, 

This has certainly been a summer like none of us have experienced before. We know that the question, “What will the new school year look like?” looms large for parents and educators across Minnesota and across the country. With that in mind, please know how thankful we are for your patience, understanding, and encouragement as your TCGIS team - administrators, teachers, EAs and support staff - have worked hard since May to develop and refine plans for the fall of 2020. 

Our school community’s Mission and Vision have guided our teams throughout the planning process. Asking ourselves continually: How will we safely and equitably deliver on our promise of Innovative education of the whole child through German immersion? Balancing the many divergent, at times competing needs and wants of students, staff, and families, with current scientific data and public health realities has required us to live our vision: Andere hören, andere sehen, weltoffen denken und handeln - hearing others, seeing others, thinking and acting with a mind open to the world. 

In Thursday’s Elternbrief, we said the current plan for school this fall would be shared with families on Tuesday evening. However, in order to give TCGIS families an opportunity to review the plan now and still submit questions to fallplanning2020@tcgis.org prior to the meeting Tuesday evening, we are sharing the basic framework with you today.

Before looking at our plan, it is helpful to take a look at the numbers provided by the State of Minnesota and how those numbers compare with the Safe Learning Plan issued by the Department of Education on July 30. TCGIS students live in five Minnesota counties, with the vast majority in Ramsey and Hennepin. The State of Minnesota reports numbers from two weeks prior, which means we’re sitting in the present planning for the future with past numbers - all in an accelerated time frame without the benefit of any precedent to draw from.

The graphic below is a TCGIS evaluation of local COVID case rates as one factor for the school delivery mode for fall (Guidance from MDE, MPH):
  • Guidance for schools with students from multiple counties is to use the highest case rate number (Hennepin for now)
  • Current COVID case rate allows TCGIS to use the Hybrid approach for all grades (K-8)
  • Trends indicate we will reach COVID case rate with guidance of secondary students in distance learning, elementary in hybrid, by school start
  • We do not know how the Governor’s mask mandate will influence numbers of cases
Given the above information, we are eager to share with you today:  

The TCGIS Fall Plan: Distance Learning with Connection 

What does that mean? 
Distance Learning with Connection combines the reliability of a strategic, long-term distance-learning model with the invaluable relationship-building benefits AND flexibility of a hybrid-learning model. 

The foundation of the 2020-21 school year is Distance Learning because the current COVID projections tell us that, at some point this fall, we will need to be in full distance learning for an indeterminate time. We must do distance learning really well because all of our students will be in distance learning this year. Connection weeks will complement distance learning by investing in relationship building in the beginning of the year, providing students and educators with more potential to succeed in distance learning when that day inevitably comes.

What are Connection Weeks?
We want to utilize every chance we can for connection, orientation and relationship building in the first weeks of the school year. A Connection Week is a hybrid school week where students come into the building for on-site instruction in their learning cohort. This is intentional time with reduced contact. The goals are: to meet the teacher(s), build relationships with classmates, understand the schedule and routines, practice using the technology. 

Are students required to attend Connection Weeks?
No. All Minnesota families have the option to choose distance learning for their student no matter which learning model their school is implementing. (See Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School year.) 

How many days per week will students be in school during Connection Weeks?
Two. Homeroom classes will be split into two cohorts for in-person learning. Each cohort will attend school for two consecutive days each week and have 3 days of distance-learning each week, for as long as the COVID case numbers allow it. In a typical week, Wednesday will be when all students are offsite. On these days, educators will be planning, meeting with each other and checking in with specific kids and families. 
What will distance learning look like? 
Distance learning this fall will be structured days with scheduled learning blocks that allow for live on-line interaction with teachers, other staff, and other students. We expect this to be a substantial improvement on our crisis distance learning in the spring. As during Connection Weeks, Wednesday afternoon will be earmarked for teacher preparation & collaboration time.
September Projection
Currently, we envision the month of September like this:
Please not that there is distance learning for all students who need or choose a 100% distance learning model.
Questions, Comments, Feedback
Tuesday evening’s presentation will provide more details and the chance for some questions and explanation. Anyone who is unable to attend should check the school website Wednesday for a link to a recording. 

We invite you to email your feedback to fallplanning2020@tcgis.org. We will organize the questions into themes and answer as many of them as we can on Tuesday evening. We will draft an FAQ for the questions we don’t get to; future questions will also be answered in the weekly Elternbrief. 

To be clear, children in schools with their teachers is the best option for learning. Given the considerations for safety, we feel strongly that this is the best model possible for our kids.

We cannot overstate how much we appreciate your trust in our teams to develop, plan, and implement a framework that best serves the divergent needs of our entire community within the very challenging limitations of this pandemic. We do not take your trust for granted.

Mit dankbarem Gruß,

Ted Anderson, Executive Director
Elizabeth Zehnpfennig, Middle School Dean
Michael White, Elementary School Dean
Beate Simon, German Immersion Dean
Esther Neu, Dean of Academic Support
Ashley Weston Miller, Director of Operations & HR
Tina Haarbusch, Director of International Programs & Outreach