September 27, 2020

Grant County Herald

Community news from the prairie to the lakes

Details on WCA’s return to school plans

By Dale Hogie, WCA Superintendent

WCA administrators shared plan components with the WCA Board of Education on August 5. The base plan has been developed with faculty input through a series of meetings. The committee is recommending starting our school year in a hybrid model for all students. An in-person model will be used on M, T, Th, and F. Wednesday will be used for remote assistance for students who need additional assistance, additional teacher preparation time, and deeper cleaning of facilities. By the time this is published in the Grant County Herald, a Return-to-School Brochure will likely have been disseminated to WCA families. 

Our year will begin with parent conferences on September 8 and 9. This has been a recent practice for elementary students and will now be implemented for all students. A portion of the scheduled conference time will be devoted to demonstrating computer and program access that is relevant to students and parents. District personnel are doing this in preparation for distance learning procedures that may need to be initiated quickly. Due to medical conditions of students or members of their household, some families may choose distance learning to start the year.

Our Return-to-School Committee has created plans to provide a safe environment for our students and staff. A few of the most basic accommodations include: all students will be required to wear a facemask unless they secure an exemption from their medical provider, social distancing will be utilized and classroom desks will be placed six feet apart, staff members will wear face masks or face shields or a combination of both, and transition procedures will be implemented for arrival, departure, and moving between classes.

Our ultimate goal is to provide a safe instructional environment that allows WCA to continue with our Hybrid Model that utilizes in-person instruction four days in a full week of school. Parents can help by ensuring that children stay home when not feeling well, and practicing social distancing and masking. With everyone committed stay-safe procedures, we improve our opportunity to remain in a hybrid model.

Learning model determined by 14-Day COVID-19 Case Rate by County

Our local administrative team continues to work on staying current with the updates in guidance provided by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE). Those two organizations continue to gather more information and collaborate constantly to assure consistent messaging to school officials and the public. Their challenge is to disseminate information in a clear, succinct, meaningful, and timely format.

One piece of information that has been publicly shared is the “14-day COVID-19 Case Rate by County. The document may be accessed on the MDH website. County case rates are only one indicator to use as a guide when determining which instructional option a District should use.  Using the case rate indicator, a school representative is to consult a team of representatives from MDH, MDE, the county public health department, and a representative from the regional service cooperative. After consultation, this team will make a decision on what instructional model should be used.

There are multiple reasons why county case incidence is not the only data piece used. First, due to the time necessary to analyze and verify test collections, the published rate of August 6 is based on specimen collections during the time period of 7/12 – 7/25. The data range is 12 to 25 days old. County and state agencies will have access to more current, but not necessarily verified data. Secondly, the county will assist in identifying where the cases are within the county. Cases may be primarily in an isolated area of the county. Thirdly, will the county be able to determine and share whether staff, students, or family members of a school district or building have actually tested positive. Finally, were the people with positive tests promptly quarantined, was their close contact with others limited, and were they following the safe recommendations of social distancing and wearing a mask.

The previous week, Grant County had an incidence rating of 35.37. On August 6, the rating was 21.89. The previous week rating falls in a range for hybrid instruction for elementary (PK-8) and distance learning for high school (9-12). The current rating range is hybrid instruction for all students. As return to school, the County incidence ratings and other information will be used to determine which instructional model will be used. Any county with a small population is likely to greater fluctuation in case rates than a county with a larger population.

Our committee is committed to ensuring a healthy and safe environment, providing the best academic instruction and intervention possible, providing opportunities for social interaction and supporting emotional health. Thank you for your continued interest in and support of the WCA School District. Stay safe and stay well.