Dear Northfield Public Schools Families,
Thank you for your ongoing support and cooperation as we have navigated the beginning of this school year. It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today. Due to rapidly deteriorating public health conditions, the District will be shifting all schools to distance learning over the next two weeks.
We plan to shift Northfield High School (NHS) to distance learning for our students and staff’s safety beginning on Thursday, November 19, 2020. Students’ last day on the high school campus will be November 16, 2020. Teachers will use November 17 and 18, 2020, to plan for this transition. We plan to shift early childhood, elementary, and middle school students to distance learning on November 30, 2020. Their last day on campus will be November 20, 2020. Teachers at those levels will use November 23 and 24, 2020, to plan for this transition. At this time, this distance learning period is planned to go through the end of winter break. Please read this message carefully for details about why this decision has been made.
After consultation with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Regional Support Team, Rice County Public Health, and our local incident command team, this decision is based on three key data points:
In the past week, we have seen a dramatic increase in laboratory-positive cases in Rice County, Northfield, and at Northfield High School. Since November 5th, we have seen 14 new cases among the Northfield High School community.
This abrupt increase mirrors the dramatic increase in Rice County and the State. There were 334 new cases in Rice County from November 2nd through November 8th. The latest preliminary Rice County two-week case rate per 10,000 residents is 77.39.
With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, the MDH is projecting continued increases in positive COVID-19 cases in Minnesota and Rice County.
Our goal is to make this shift as safe and smooth as possible for all families. We are continuing in our current learning models for a brief period in order to give families time to make plans and adjustments. We will use the following schedule. This schedule was developed in consultation with the MDH Regional Support Team:
Northfield High School
Tuesday, November 10: Maroon Cohort
Wednesday, November 11: Regular distance learning day for all students
Thursday and Friday, November 12 & 13: Gold Cohort
Monday, November 16: Maroon Cohort
Tuesday & Wednesday, November 17 & 18: teacher planning days – no instruction
Thursday, November 19-December 22: distance learning (Thanksgiving break is November 25 – 27)
Based on public health guidance, the Minnesota Department of Education’s direction, the combination of a significant case rate above 50 infections per 10,000 residents and the increasing case rates at Northfield High School, all Northfield High School athletics and activities will also be suspended beginning on November 19, 2020.
NHS Principal Joel Leer and his team are finalizing updates to the distance learning schedule. You can expect to hear from him this week with more information. The schedule and improved distance learning model are based on our experience last spring and feedback from parents, students, and staff.
Northfield Area Learning Center, Northfield Community Education Center, Bridgewater, Greenvale Park, Sibley, and Northfield Middle School:
November 10-20: Students will remain in their current learning models. This date may change if there is an increase in cases at these sites or problems with staffing levels to support our on-site learners. Please be prepared with a plan for your family. The Make a Plan MN website is an excellent resource.
November 23-November 24: Teacher planning days – no instruction.
November 30-December 22: Distance Learning (Thanksgiving break is November 25 – 27)
Please know this is subject to change based on changing public health information.
Our administrators are finalizing updates to the distance learning schedule. You can expect to hear from them next week with more information. The schedule and improved distance learning model are based on our experience last spring and feedback from parents, students, and staff.
Special Education students and other at-risk learners
Governor Walz and the MDE have required that districts provide services to special education students and other at-risk learners. The District will prioritize providing in-person instruction and services to students with disabilities whose individualized education program calls for intensive services that cannot be provided in a distance learning model. We will communicate with eligible families who may receive in-person services during distance learning.
Free meals will continue to be available during distance learning. Additional information will be provided as that schedule is finalized.
Child Care for Tier I Essential Workers
The District will offer child care for Tier I essential workers during distance learning. There will be a fee for any time before or after regular school hours. Care during school hours will be free. To qualify, both parents need to be considered Tier I essential works and be scheduled to work during regular school hours. Additional information will be provided soon about registration for this program.
Portage students will continue with their regular schedule and are not affected by the transitions.
How will we shift back?
We will continue to watch several data points, including the county case rate, additional cases reported among our school population, and other local conditions. Our goal will be to return students to the campus as soon as we can do so after the holiday break. We will continue to update you frequently as we learn more and decisions are finalized.
Follow the Protocols
Please make sure to follow the standard safety protocols to protect yourself from COVID-19: wear a face mask when in public, wash your hands frequently with hot water and soap, maintain six-feet of physical distancing, avoid large gatherings, stay home when feeling ill, and get a COVID-19 test if you display the associated symptoms.
I know this pandemic has been difficult for many people in our community. Thank you for your ongoing cooperation, support, and grace as we continue to adjust to the evolving public health situation.
Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools