Update 33: Middle and high schools plan for more in-person school, hybrid model phasing out; chance to revise trimester three learning model choice for those families
(02/19/2021) Anoka-Hennepin continues the pathway to returning more middle and high school students back to in-person learning. The following topics will be shared in this week’s update:
- Middle and high schools plan for more in-person school, hybrid model phasing out.
- Opportunity to update trimester three learning model for middle and high school families.
- Options for struggling learners to return to school more frequently prior to March 22.
- District virtual online schools starting up in the 2021-22 school year; take interest survey for more info later.
Make sure to check out the frequently asked questions area of the COVID-19 website as an additional resource.
Middle and high schools plan for more in-person school, hybrid model phasing out
The recent updates to the MN Safe Learning Plan include new guidance for middle and high schools. While school districts are still encouraged to consider county level COVID-19 cases as a starting point, schools are now encouraged to also use local metrics like the percent of cases among staff and students in a given school. This plan also allows schools to operate classrooms with a recommended three feet of social distancing and lunchrooms with less than three feet of social distancing. Staff are still strongly encouraged to maintain six feet of social distancing as much as possible, noting that this will be challenging in some spaces. Staff are also encouraged to use two face coverings or a face covering and a face shield. These continue to be recommendations, not requirements.
Using this guidance, and including the downward trend of county COVID-19 cases, Anoka-Hennepin Schools is planning to bring students back to school in person four days per week starting the week of March 22. Trimester three will begin with in-person learning and not operate in the hybrid model.
Why is the district unable to offer a five day a week return? The answer to this question is based on requirements set in place by the Minnesota Department of Education. In August, all parents/guardians were informed that distance learning would be an option for the entire 2020-21 school year. The language from the MN Safe Learning Plan is highlighted below:
“All school districts and charter schools must offer an equitable distance learning option to all families who choose not to attend in-person learning due to medical risks or any other safety concerns. Families are not required to provide documentation of risk.”
The school district cannot mandate all parents/guardians return to school for trimester three. In addition, in November, all Minnesota school districts were required to provide additional time for any teacher that has students both in person and online. The following language is from Executive Order 20-94:
“A school district or charter school must count 30 minutes per day for teacher preparation to provide instruction to students in distance learning or a distance learning or hybrid learning model, as instructional time toward meeting the minimum hours required by Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 120A.41. This teacher preparation time is for students receiving instruction in distance learning or a distance learning or hybrid model.”
As long as the district has families choosing distance learning, middle and high school teachers will need this additional time to support those students. Throughout this school year, Anoka-Hennepin has been providing this time all at once on Mondays, and asking teachers to use the remainder of the day to connect with distance learners. For this reason, one day per week will be set aside for additional preparation time, asynchronous instruction and support for the nearly 10,000 students attending school in the distance learning model.
Note that some districts are offering “distance learning in school” five days a week. Some of these districts keep their students in the same classroom all day and offer instruction online. These districts are not required to provide the additional preparation time since teachers are only teaching in one format, distance learning. Based on feedback from parents/guardians throughout the year, Anoka-Hennepin is choosing to minimize online learning in school as much as possible, and to have students follow their schedule and work directly with teachers as much as possible.
Opportunity to update trimester three learning model for middle and high school families
With the move to in-person learning four days per week in March, parents/guardians will be given an additional week to contact their school and share if they still want to keep their student in distance learning. Data from trimester one suggests that students attending in person are much more likely to be successful academically and receive social or emotional support. All parents/guardians are strongly encouraged to choose the in person option for their students. Distance learners will experience a higher percentage of asynchronous learning. In some cases, students that maintain the distance learning option may be rescheduled to other teachers in order to manage class sizes and maximize safety protocols at school. In response to this information, middle and high school students will be scheduled in person, parents/guardians that still prefer the distance learning model should contact their school and share this option. We apologize for the inconvenience of an additional call, but want to make sure parents/guardians are informed before committing to a learning model.
Options for struggling learners to return to school more frequently prior to March 22
The district is aware that there are some students that can’t wait until mid-March to receive additional support. Middle and high school parents/guardians who have students at risk of failing or in need of more frequent socio-emotional support are encouraged to reach out to school administration to determine if four days per week starting March 1 is an appropriate option.
District virtual online schools starting up in the 2021-22 school year; take interest survey for more info later
For students and families who want to continue virtual learning next school year, Anoka-Hennepin will offer formal elementary, middle and high school virtual online programs. A high school program, StepAhead Online, has existed since 2014.
Program details, information sessions and applications for the school will be available this spring as plans are finalized. Families that are interested in learning more at that time are asked to fill out the interest form by Friday, Feb. 26.
The schools will offer the Anoka-Hennepin curriculum, provide student support services and follow district policies for in-district transfers, open enrollment and student performance standards. Computers will be provided to students who need them and learning will be supported by an enhanced technology platform.