June 7, 2020
Dear South Washington County Schools Community,
“This is not the year that anyone expected. All of us will remember 2020 and the many challenges we faced together – most recently, the events in Minneapolis following the death of George Floyd, the worldwide pandemic, job losses, school closings and the loss of a typical end to the senior year including a traditional graduation.
This week, we are holding our virtual graduation ceremonies. The sense of loss for our seniors during this time is understandable. The ability for a student to end their high school career by walking across the stage for their diploma is an important event for our kids. Our principals and school staff have been hard at work creating a ceremony that recognizes each student. You can watch this week’s live streams at sowashco.org/graduations.
We are also looking toward fall 2020. Though we hope for a return to a normal school year, we need to prepare for the possibility of adjustments to our calendar, school day and in-person attendance of students. A final plan will not be communicated until late July when Governor Tim Walz, the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) are expected to release their guidance for schools for the 2020-21 school year.
Even without specific guidance, we are planning for three scenarios that MDE shared as the only options for the fall:
- A complete distance learning environment
- A traditional face-to-face environment in school with social distancing in place
- A hybrid environment with social distancing still in place (a combination of face-to-face teaching at school and distance learning)
These scenarios will each need to identify how we handle large class activities, athletics, eating lunch, passing time in the hallways, school bus transportation, and many other system-wide logistics. In addition, we will be planning on how we can best support the social-emotional wellbeing of students who return to our care.
To help with our planning process, we held approximately 80 focus groups last month with parents, staff and students to gather ideas about the fall. Feedback from focus group participants allowed us to identify five main themes to consider in a school-year plan for fall 2020.
- Health and Safety
- Mental Health and Social-Emotional Wellbeing
- System Logistics
- Teaching and Learning Practices
- Adult Learning and Professional Development
The ideas and notes generated by the focus groups are included here. Not all ideas are feasible nor will they all be considered based on several factors including the final guidance from the state. We hope for some flexibility so that we can “get back to normal” as soon as possible.
In preparation for the Governor’s announcement in late July, South Washington County Schools has created a strategy planning team to develop plans for all three scenarios so we can finalize implementation of the plan chosen by the Governor. The comprehensive plans will follow all guidelines from the state and will respond to the needs of our students.
As this school year ends, I wish to thank all of our teachers and staff members for their flexibility in delivering curriculum and finding a way to connect with students remotely. I appreciate all the families and students who balanced work and home needs while managing classwork.
Once we have additional information regarding our plans for fall, families will receive communication about the next steps. I cannot express enough, my gratitude for your patience and flexibility during this time of uncertainty.”
Keith Jacobus, Ph.D.
This press release was produced by South Washington County Schools. The views expressed here are the author’s own.