***en Español***

Greetings, Northfield Public Schools Families,

I hope this message finds you healthy, safe, and looking forward to temperatures in the 40s next week! The purpose of today’s update is to share two vital pieces of information with you about vaccinations for district staff and a plan to return middle and high school students to campus five days per week, beginning March 31.

Second Vaccination Doses for Staff

Our school district was blessed to have 308 employees vaccinated (over half our total staff) at Northfield Hospital+Clinics on February 10. The second dose for those staff members is scheduled for March 10, 2021. We have connected with organizations that have experience with the potential impact of second-dose side effects on their staffing. We understand that up to approximately 30% of people may experience side effects from the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine that can interrupt their daily life activities. There is no current predictability of who will experience these side effects. Depending on the number of people who experience side effects, it could impact our ability to staff our schools.

Because we know families prefer to have predictability in our school schedule, we are proactively shifting all K-12 classes to a distance learning day on Thursday, March 11, the day after over half our staff will have received their second dose of the vaccination. This distance learning day could include synchronous and asynchronous (recorded) lessons, depending on the situation. While I understand this distance learning day may create a short-term inconvenience, the second vaccination dose provides our District the benefit of greater staffing stability for the remainder of the school year.

We will not offer child care for elementary age students on Thursday, March 11.

Plan to return middle, high school, and ALC students back to full-time, in-person learning

Last week, I shared that the District was reviewing the State of Minnesota updates to the Safe Learning Plan. The updates include protocol changes intended to support bringing middle and high school students back to campus. After reviewing the updates, Northfield Public Schools plans to transition middle, high school, and Area Learning Center (ALC) students to the in-person learning model after spring break, beginning Wednesday, March 31, 2021. The in-person learning model means middle, high school, and ALC students currently attending in the hybrid model will start to attend classes on campus five days per week. This change does not impact our Portage students.

We are making this transition for the following reasons:

  • The Rice County COVID-19 situation continues to improve.

  • We have experienced limited cases among our middle and high school student population since shifting to the hybrid model on February 2.

  • All staff interested in vaccination will have received their second dose by the March 31 return date. That helps make our staffing more predictable.

Below is the transition plan for middle school, high school, and ALC students.

Middle/High School/ALC In-Person Return Schedule

Friday, March 19

No classes for middle school, high school, or ALC students (teacher planning day)

Elementary school and Portage students follow their regular schedule

March 22-26

Spring Break (all students)

Monday, March 29

No classes – regularly scheduled district-wide teacher preparation day (all students)

Tuesday, March 30

No classes for middle school, high school, or ALC students (teacher planning day)

Elementary school and Portage students follow their regular schedule

Wednesday, March 31

Middle school, high school, and ALC students return to regular, everyday attendance (one-hour late start for professional learning communities on Wednesdays)

Elementary school and Portage students follow their regular Wednesday schedule

For your preparation, it is vital to understand that even though the protocols have changed to allow more students on campus, other safety protocols, such as required masking, are still in place. Also, the MDH Decision Tree has not changed. That means that students within six feet of a positive COVID-19 case for 15 or more total minutes will need to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days.

Returning to a regular schedule inspires both excitement and anxiety. It is thrilling to plan to have middle and high school students on campus every day for the first time since March 17, 2020. There is also anxiety in returning to a regular schedule after the societal trauma inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our staff will work hard to make sure that the student experience is as safe as practicable.

As with all things pandemic-related, these plans are subject to change without significant notice. While we are moving in the right direction with the infection rates and public health situation, we are still dealing with a virus and have limited control over it.

Thank You

I sincerely appreciate our community’s cooperation and support over the last year. I have felt like we are getting 25 years’ worth of decision-making experience in the last 11 months. I understand it has been a difficult pathway and I have been proud of our community’s effort to persevere through the pandemic. While the road ahead of us is still uncertain, we are in the best position we have been in a long time. Please continue to follow the safety protocols recommended by MDH: wear a face mask when in public, maintain social distancing, avoid large gatherings, and stay home if you feel ill.

Let’s keep moving forward, together.



Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools