Dear Northfield Public Schools Families,
Today, Governor Walz announced that school district operations for the 2020-2021 school year will be driven by county-level virus metrics provided by the Minnesota Department of Health. It is clear that our local collective effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 will determine whether or not students can attend school in-person.
He also directed schools to provide a distance learning only option for any family with that preference.
I shared earlier this week that I would communicate with you no later than Friday, August 7 about many of the details of our reopening. Based on today’s direction from the Governor, we anticipate needing additional time to analyze how we implement these parameters in Northfield. We also understand many people are wondering about how these parameters will impact co-curricular activities. We anticipate the Minnesota State High School League will issue this guidance soon. I understand the challenge this uncertainty causes for our families and staff. I want you to know we will communicate as quickly as possible when decisions about the start of the school year are finalized and we will continue to communicate with you regularly in the coming week.
Over the past six weeks, our school team has asked for your suggestions, had planning teams with approximately 60 people consider a variety of options for logistics, health/virus prevention, and instructional design. We have included students and parents as part of the process and participated in weekly calls with Rice County Public Health as part of our planning.
A few items for you to anticipate:
There will be a totally online option available for families. This model is called the Portage Option. If you have any interest in registering your student for Portage, please complete this form. You are not obligating yourself to the online-only option, rather helping the District understand how many students might use it.
When students are on campus, face coverings will be required for students in Kindergarten and above in accordance with Executive Order No. 20-81. The school district, in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Education, will provide at least one face covering (mask and/or face shield) for every student.
Parents will be required to conduct a daily health screening at home prior to sending their child to school. We need a team effort to limit the spread of the virus. Parents must keep students who are ill at home.
Our partner, Benjamin Bus, is anticipating that we will be able to keep our start and end times similar to last year whenever transportation to school sites is required. Bus pickup and dropoff times will not be ready for a few weeks, based on those who have requested transportation. There will be some minor delays because buses will need to be disinfected between transportation tiers.
We plan to use the entire first week of school to meet with each student’s family. With so much happening in the world, we want to prioritize relationships with you by understanding how the virus and other events have impacted your student and family. More information will be shared about this in a future update, but I want you to anticipate that formal instruction, regardless of the model, will not begin until September 14, 2020.
In this situation, unpredictability reigns supreme. We must remember we are still in the midst of a global health pandemic and the circumstances continue to change. Ongoing decision-making about our school model will be a direct result of local virus data. We must all do our part by taking necessary precautions if we would like students to return to and remain in school. Thank you in advance for your support, patience, and understanding as we work to implement the Governor’s direction.
Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools