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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

ISD 696 pivots to hybrid learning

Community COVID-19 cases trending up as school year begins

Keith Vandervort
Posted 9/18/20

ELY – Exactly two weeks after the 2020-2021 school year started here under an in-person learning model, a drastic uptick in regional coronavirus cases is forcing the district to transition to a …

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ISD 696 pivots to hybrid learning

Community COVID-19 cases trending up as school year begins

Posted

ELY – Exactly two weeks after the 2020-2021 school year started here under an in-person learning model, a drastic uptick in regional coronavirus cases is forcing the district to transition to a hybrid learning protocol.

Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 22, students in the Memorial building, grades 6-12, will begin following the hybrid plan which involves a determined schedule of some days in school and other days at home. Students in the Washington building, grades K-5, will continue with all in-person learning.

The Ely Safe Learning Plan Advisory Council on Thursday reviewed updated Greater St. Louis County and local coronavirus data and agreed with the ISD 696 administration’s recommendation to move to the hybrid learning plan next week.

Superintendent Erik Erie explained that updated coronavirus case data was reviewed, along with the protocols spelled out in the school district’s “Restart Blueprint,” and any changes or improvements were considered. District administration team members, Erie, and principals Megan Anderson and Anne Oelke, are authorized by the ISD 696 School Board to make any learning plan adjustments as agreed upon by the advisor council.

St. Louis County public health COVID-19 dashboard resources indicate a steady yet alarming increases in the number of cases per 10,000 people from 4.87 to 10.87 so far this month to 13.74 on Thursday for Greater St. Louis County.

According to the ISD 696 learning model protocols, COVID-19 case-rate increase drives what learning models will be in place. A case count ratio from zero to nine (per 10,000 people) puts Ely schools in complete in-person learning model. A case count ratio of 10 to 19 triggers a move to hybrid learning for secondary students and in-person for elementary students. A case count ratio of 20 to 29 triggers a transition to hybrid learning for all students. Larger case count ratios trigger a move to distance-learning models.

The St. Louis County Public Health regional support team recommended that ISD 696 remain in an in-person learning mode until there are three data set trends to consider, Erie said. “That is a change from last week when they recommended that we look at two weeks of trends. That is what they are telling school districts to do,” he said. He noted that that new recommendation came from the state Department of Health to St. Louis County health officials.

According to Ely 6-12 principal Megan Anderson, Essentia Clinic officials had recommended that ISD 696 move to the hybrid learning model.

“It is totally up to our district and this is a district-level decision,” he said. “It is our district that is responsible for keeping our students and employees safe as best we can.”

Following a discussion with advisory council members, the administration team recommended, adhering to the district’s established restart blueprint protocols, and that the hybrid learning plan model be initiated as soon as possible.

Ely students in grades 6-12 will not be in school on Monday, Sept. 21 to allow teachers and staff additional planning time to prepare and transition to the modified learning protocols.

Students in grades 6-12 are divided into an A Group and a B Group. For the week of Sept. 21-25, those students in the A Group will attend school in-person on Tuesday and stay home on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Those students in the B Group will stay home on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and report for in-person learning on Thursday and Friday. Parents were to be notified today (Friday Sept. 18) on which group their students are in.

All elementary students, grades K-5 will continue with in-person learning next week.

“Parents, please help us to continue to create a safe learning environment for our students, staff, and community,” Erie said. “In order to have students back in-person learning, we need all community members to do their part and be sure that your students are being responsible including wearing face masks in public, avoiding large social gatherings, and practicing safe social distancing.”

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