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Frequently Asked Questions about Reopening School Fall 2020

District 191 is addressing a variety of areas to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff  this school year. Families can send their questions to info@isd191.org. Answers to questions will be posted as they become available. Topics include:


Transitioning from Hybrid to Distance Learning

Why is there no school for grades 6-12 on Nov. 16-18?

These “no school” days will provide time for work and preparation that will help ensure distance learning starts and continues in a successful way for students and staff. This includes professional development around distance learning for teachers and other staff, time for teacher teams to coordinate with each other and contact families, and more. Specifically, teachers will need time and professional development to develop instructional plans that are specific to distance learning rather than simply providing in-person instruction through a virtual environment. 

In addition, schools will prepare and distribute materials during the three-day transition period.

Will there be any changes to meal distribution, childcare or transportation for elementary students at this time?

The federal program that allows Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District 191 to provide free meals to all children ages 1-18 has been extended through June 30, 2021, or until funding runs out. Beginning Nov. 16, meals will be delivered by District 191 buses daily, Monday-Friday, to various sites across the district. Distribution schedule is posted at www.isd191.org/meal-distribution.

Elementary childcare will be expanded during Distance Learning starting Nov. 30. However, elementary childcare will be closed Nov. 23-25 to allow the expanded programs to be set up and prepared for future use. 

Parents who are interested should request childcare by filling out a registration form now to help us determine how many students we might expect.

A fee-based care program for students in grades 6-8 will be piloted at Nicollet Middle School starting Nov. 19 with care available Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Please go to https://www.communityed191.org/page/3321 or all 952-707-4150 for more information. 

Will there be any changes to the schedule (i.e. times or length of synchronous learning)?

Burnsville High School’s Distance Learning schedule will follow the current Virtual Academy schedule. Eagle Ridge and Nicollet middle schools will follow their current Wednesday schedule, which is already a distance learning day for all students. Details and more specific communications will come directly from each school. 

Will there be any in-person individual supports for secondary students with significant needs? 

All secondary students will move to distance learning due to the community spread of the COVID virus, the predicted rise of the COVID spread in our immediate community, and the impact on our students, families, and staff.  As one of our top priorities, Student Support Services staff members are working to determine how some supports may be provided safely for students with the greatest needs. Families should work directly with their students’ teacher or case manager for details.  

Will high school activities/athletics be affected? 

Fall athletics and activities will be allowed to continue, while adhering to district-approved COVID plans specific to each activity. A plan for winter activities is being developed and will be communicated as soon as it is finalized.

Winter activities and athletics will be able to operate after submitting an approved health and safety plan, with restrictions based on the level of contact in each sport/activity and current community health data. There will be six restriction levels, ranging from no in-person activity allowed to full competitions with spectators. The restriction level will be determined weekly by the District 191 Athletics and Activities COVID Response Team in consultation with state and county health officials, the state high school league, and district leadership. 

For details about each activity and restrictions, students and parents should contact the coach/adviser.
 
Why will elementary students have to change teachers?

In order to provide in-person learning as part of the hybrid model and allow for social distancing, which was a required safety protocol, many elementary teachers who normally provide specialized instruction - including art, music and digital learning - were assigned to be classroom teachers so that class sizes could be made as small as possible. 

With students no longer attending in person, those teachers will begin teaching in their specialty area again. While this means that some students will have new teachers, staff at all schools will make extra efforts to ensure those transitions are approached with care, an emphasis on social emotional wellbeing, and an opportunity to connect and build a relationship with another excellent teacher. 

How long will we be in distance learning? 

At this time, we do not know how long we will be in distance learning. The decision to transition back to a hybrid or in-person model will be based community health conditions and the district’s ability to support that model, just as the decision to switch to distance learning was. The District will continue to monitor health conditions and consult with local and state health officials. Parents, students and staff can help by following steps to limit the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks, maintaining social distance and avoiding gatherings, and washing their hands regularly. 

Instruction & Learning

Distance Learning

Can I choose 100% distance learning for my child, even if some in-person school is taking place?

Yes. District 191 is offering a 100% distance learning option, called One91 Virtual Academy. Parents are required to register their children in the virtual academy. See more information at www.isd191.org/VirtualAcademy

If I choose the Virtual Academy, do my children have to stay in it all year?

Registration in the Virtual Academy is for a semester at a time; however, individual needs will always be considered.

What is “synchronous” learning?

During distance learning days and for students in the Virtual Academy, students will have live interaction with licensed teachers and classmates every day. Many classes will take place in a synchronous manner, meaning all students are expected to log in at a specific time and participate in a virtual classroom through video conferencing. 

When attending a virtual meeting, can students leave their cameras off?

Students may be asked to turn cameras on for a short period for attendance purposes. Virtual meeting software will provide the option for students to blur or virtually replace their backgrounds. 

Are the Virtual Academy teachers the same teachers that are teaching in-person/hybrid courses, or are they a separate set of teachers?

Virtual Academy teachers will be entirely focused on providing instruction to Virtual Academy students. However, in cases of unique classes - such as concurrent classes with a local community college - where there may be fewer sections, the school and teacher will work to create the solution that meets students' needs. 

Will there be teachers available for special education and English language services as well as the intervention and enrichment groups mentioned?

Yes. Special education teachers and English Learner teachers will work directly with their students to ensure they receive the support and instruction they need. 

Will honors/advanced placement/concurrent enrollment classes be offered?

Yes. High school students in the Virtual Academy will have access to honors courses and advanced courses (AP/CIS/CE) and may need some additional synchronous learning time. At middle school, whether students are a part of the Virtual Academy or hybrid learning, they will have access to honors classes, along with small group instruction that offers enrichment opportunities.

Are meals available for students when they are distance learning?

Yes. Meals will be available at three pick-up locations: Eagle Ridge Middle School, Nicollet Middle School and Rahn Elementary. 

Will students who participate in 100% online learning be able to participate in in-school activities/athletics?

Yes.

How will we find out what activities are allowed to happen and how they will operate to keep the kids safe?

The district will follow Minnesota State High School League guidance when it comes to athletics. Student-interest and school-sponsored activities will be required to create and submit a health and safety plan that meets guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health before beginning any activities. Contact the BHS Activities Office for more details. 


Health, Safety & Operations

Daily Operations

Are face masks required?

Yes, for all students in kindergarten through grade 12 and all staff. Exceptions are made for medical reasons. Learn more about the statewide mask mandate at https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/facecoverfaq.html

What steps will be taken if a student who has contact with others during the day falls ill and tests positive for the virus?

The District will follow state protocols and work closely with local and state health experts. Students and staff who come in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 are routinely informed. 

Physical Spaces

How will buildings/learning spaces be cleaned?

District schools and office spaces will continue to be cleaned on a daily basis, as usual. On a regular basis, the district uses devices to spray disinfectant on commonly used surfaces. Under a hybrid model, all schools will have at least one day per week when no students are present, allowing the school to be cleaned even more thoroughly.

How many students will be in a room together?

It will depend on the size of the room. The maximum allowed by state guidelines is 25 people per space, but always while maintaining 6 feet of distance between students/staff. Many typical classrooms will hold 12-15 students along with a teacher. Some classes may be held in larger spaces, such as school media centers or gymnasiums, which would allow for more students per pod. 

How is the district deciding what model to use? 

Gov. Walz and the Minnesota Department of Education provided guidelines for determining a district’s “base” educational model that are based on how many new cases of COVID-19 have occurred in a county in the previous two weeks. Districts should then consider their local needs and abilities to decide whether they can deliver on that model, or if they need to be more restrictive (i.e. have less in-person instruction). Because District 191 serves two counties, we will use the numbers that result in the more restrictive model to determine our “base” learning model. 

Districts can choose to be more restrictive - meaning provide less in-person instruction - than the model that the state guidelines suggest. Districts cannot be less restrictive unless they have very specific local reason to do so. (e.g. In a large county, case rates in one portion of the county may be very different from another portion.)

Transportation

How will students' health be protected on buses?

The number of students allowed on buses at one time will be limited and all students will be required to wear masks while on the bus. Increased cleaning measures will be implemented. Because of the need to reduce the number of students on a bus, the district is asking parents who can provide alternative transportation – such as driving their children to school, participating in a ride share with friends/neighbors, or walking/biking if it is safe – to opt out of receiving district-provided transportation.

If you live in an area where school bus transportation is provided and you are able to use alternative transportation, please Opt-Out of school bus transportation by completing this form.

Nutrition Services

How will students' health be protected during school meals?

During in-person learning days, students will not eat meals in the cafeteria. They will either travel to the cafeteria only with their pod/class and then return to their classroom, or meals will be brought to them in their classroom. 

Childcare

Will childcare/Project KIDS be offered?

Childcare during distance learning time for children in grades K through 5 is currently being planned.  Tier 1 families, which includes first responders and educators will have access to free child care during typical school hours only. Planning is also underway for K-5 childcare in each elementary for both before and after school. Details, including potential space limitations, will depend on what learning model (in-person, online or hybrid) the district is using. More information will be provided to families at that time.

If I were an essential worker but wanted the virtual academy for my child, would there be essential worker childcare available for my family? 

Yes. Childcare will be available throughout the district.