Dear Northfield Public Schools Families,
I hope this message finds your families healthy and safe. Thank you for your generous patience and understanding as we have navigated the decision-making process of what learning models we will use to begin the 2020-2021 school year. I recognize the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 global health pandemic is stressful. Today, I am sharing the decision about how we plan to start the school year. The latest 14-day infection rate per 10,000 residents in Rice County is 10.50. Based on the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education Safe Learning Plan guidance and other local considerations:
- PreK through 5th-grade students will return to school using the in-person learning model. Students will attend school five days a week. In this learning model, we will work to create as much physical distancing as feasible. Face-coverings will be required and regular hand-washing will be emphasized.
- Northfield Middle School, Northfield High School, and Northfield Area Learning Center students will return to school in a hybrid model. Students in the maroon cohort will attend school in-person on Monday and Tuesday and attend school via distance learning Wednesday-Friday. Students in the gold cohort will attend school via distance learning on Monday-Wednesday and attend school in-person Thursday and Friday. In this learning model, buildings will be limited to no more than 50% of the fire marshal capacity, and we will work to create six-feet of physical distancing. When attending school in-person, face-coverings will be required and regular hand-washing will be emphasized. While we had initially planned to announce student cohort assignments today, our teams need some additional time to complete that work. We expect to provide you your student’s cohort assignment by the end of this week.
It is vital to understand that the learning model could change before the start of the school year on September 14 if there is a significant increase in infections or documented community spread of COVID-19. While we have become accustomed to having the novel coronavirus as part of our daily lives, we cannot let our guard down on preventative measures. Our local collective effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 will determine whether students can attend school in-person. Wash your hands frequently, wear a mask, and stay home when you aren’t feeling well.
You can learn more about our learning models by reading our updated Striving Together document. You will also start receiving information directly from your child’s principal about the protocols intended to make our schools as safe as practicable.
All-The-Time-Online Learning Option (Portage)
You can still register for the District’s all-the-time-online learning option called Portage. We have extended the registration timeline through Wednesday, August 19. We need to understand how many people plan to use the Portage option to staff the program appropriately. If you would like more information about the Portage option, you can see it here.
First Day of Student Classes: September 14, 2020, Family Conferences September 8-11.
The official first day of student classes will be Monday, September 14, 2020. During the week of September 8-11, each school will hold family conferences. The “why” is to create an intentional connection with your family to start the school year. Much has happened since students were physically at school for the last time in March. The pandemic and other events have impacted families in numerous ways. We do our best work when we know our students and their families. We will also share specific information about how the school year will operate in each learning model, provide face masks, and other resources. Each school will give families information about how to sign up for these conferences.
Transportation and Start Times
While our goal is to have our school start times as close to normal as possible, they may need to shift to accommodate student transportation. Benjamin Bus is continually updating its routes based on how many people have requested transportation. In the base learning model (in-person for elementary students and hybrid for middle and high school students), we must limit buses to 50% capacity and use two different transportation tiers. Buses will be disinfected between tiers. Benjamin Bus is continually working to create the most efficient transportation schedule possible to minimize student time on the bus.
We are preparing for what will be the most abnormal school year in most of our lifetimes. As a school district, we have worked diligently to prepare for what has felt like an infinite number of variables. We are going to get some things right and some things wrong. When we get it wrong, we will ask for your feedback and make it better. We are unequivocally committed to continuous improvement and making tomorrow better than yesterday. Even the most difficult times provide opportunities. We will embrace the opportunities presented to us in this situation.
I am grateful to all of you. You have shown patience, flexibility, and grace. More patience, flexibility, and grace is required. The pandemic will end — we don’t know when — but it will end. At the end of it, we want to be proud of how we treated our friends and neighbors. So far, I think we are on the right track.
Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools