***en Español***

Greetings, Northfield Public Schools Families:

I hope this message finds you and your families healthy and safe. Today’s update looks forward to next week’s beginning of distance learning, anticipated to begin on March 31, 2020.

We are committed to having 100% of our students connected with their teachers during this school closure. We appreciate your patience as we reach out to establish every child’s need for a device and internet connection. Our data shows that 97% of our students currently have access to a home Internet connection. Charter Spectrum is offering free service for 60 days during this global pandemic health crisis. Families must access this option individually. Some cellular providers like T-Mobile are providing unlimited data to customers, so you may be able to turn your phone “hotspot” on to allow this access. Finally, the district will have access to 50 T-Mobile standalone “hotspots” for those who cannot access the free Charter Spectrum service or use their own cellular phone as a “hotspot.”

If your child needs a device or your family needs home internet service for schooling, please contact techhelp@northfieldschools.org or leave a message at 507-645-1260. Include the names of your children, grade and what is needed (device and/or internet).

The Long Haul

We need to be prepared for the long haul. Minnesota Department of Education guidance indicates we should plan to be ready for up to eight weeks of distance learning. This is not a short-term disruption. Governor Walz and his team are using the best science available and using real-time infection data to model how COVID-19 will manifest itself in Minnesota. This effort is designed to prevent overwhelming hospitals and “flatten the curve” of the infection’s spread. There are a total of 243 intensive care unit beds across all of Minnesota. In the end, experts tell us these actions will save lives. If this isn’t the most compelling “why” we’ve ever had, I don’t know what can top it.

Distance Learning Guiding Principles

We have worked with our school district administrative team to establish guiding principles to create the foundation of our distance learning plans. These guiding principles are:

  1. Relationships first. Let’s model empathy for the wide diversity in our students’ new reality.
  2. Supportive stance. We will be relentless in our attention to engaging and connecting with our most vulnerable learners.
  3. The whole child. We want to ensure a holistic approach to our distance learning.
  4. Strengthen our instructional toolbox. Use what we have available and seek coaching. We have the tools to be successful.
  5. Less is more. Avoid the temptation to try too much too soon.
  6. Flexibility. Let’s not pretend this is business as usual.
  7. Monitor and adjust. We will continually review our practices and make improvements.
  8. Give ourselves grace. We do not need to be perfect. This is a work in progress.

Distance Learning Plans

We have been working with our faculty and staff to get their ideas and suggestions for setting up school-level plans. These initial plans will be shared with families on Thursday evening, March 26, 2020. Students will be using a variety of tools, including Zoom for videoconferencing/telephone instruction, Schoology, and See Saw as part of our distance learning plan. We will be taking attendance by capturing student engagement in their distance learning courses. We are using parent and student feedback from last year’s e-Learning days to guide our scheduling and instruction.

We are making a major change in how we educate our students in less than two weeks after the Governor’s order and our staff have been working tirelessly to help transition to distance learning. While we know we are in a better position than many other districts, we know it will not be close to perfect to start. There will be glitches. There will be trial and error. We will all have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. We will keep moving forward. We will clear the hurdles and sidestep the barriers. I am humbly asking for your patience, understanding, support, and forgiveness as we transition to distance learning. We will work hard to uphold our Northfield Public Schools‘ tradition of excellence while also acknowledging our need for space to adjust to this different approach to learning.

Again, I thank you for your support, patience, understanding, and forgiveness as we all adapt to a different way of life during this global pandemic health crisis. While it is hard now, we will get through it together. And be better for it.

Most sincerely,

Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools