Area schools have unexpectedly experienced a major shift in the way they educate children.
With the global threat of COVID-19 prevalent in 34 out of 87 counties in Minnesota, Governor Walz issued an executive order to temporarily close all schools from March 17, 2020, until March 27, 2020. On Wednesday, March 25, 2020, Walz announced that he was extending that executive order, stating that schools would be closed but offering distance learning until May 4, 2020.
The superintendents from four out of seven school districts in the Fillmore County Journal coverage area shed some light on how that process will work.
According to Rushford-Peterson Schools Superintendent Jon Thompson, “Traditional e-learning was developed for one or two days of missed school for inclement weather. It was not designed for a long-term school closure. With this in mind, the district is implementing distance learning in a more developed and dynamic format than our traditional e-learning days. We will have a mixture of face-to-face interactions and lessons over Zoom conferencing software, recorded videos, and e-mail communications. Students will have a scheduled time for specific class interaction. In addition to this, all areas will be included – including the arts and special education.”
Fillmore Central Schools Superintendent Richard Keith echoed the same approach as R-P’s Thompson, adding that FC’s staff has been onsite making use of every one of those eight days to prepare for distance learning.
Superintendent Matt Schultz, overseeing Lanesboro Public Schools, indicated that his grade 7 through 12 educators will be using Google Classroom and Zoom for education delivery. “Google Classroom has been used by staff and students prior to closure.”
Superintendent Krin Abrahamson shared that Houston Public Schools will use Schoology at the high school level and Google Classroom at the upper elementary level. “The younger elementary classes are using a combination of platforms based on the age of the student and the usability.”
Students without Internet access at their home throughout the districts of Houston Public Schools and Rushford-Peterson Schools will have the benefit of the Houston-based Internet provider AcenTek providing free Internet connectivity at locations outside of the school but near the buildings.
Lanesboro students will be provided the same option as R-P and Houston schools. “Our 7-12 students will be e-learning primarily during this time and we have worked to ensure they have access. Our K-6 students will be distance learning, working with their teacher and other staff members remotely through informational packets, phone calls, and some optional e-learning opportunities. We are currently working to get access and devices to those K-6 students that do not have it. All of that said, our primary goal will always be the personal connection we create at Lanesboro Schools and our focus will continue to be not only on academics, but on the importance of relationship and family,” explained Schultz.
Superintendent Richard Keith shared, “Our teachers are in contact with our families to determine the learning options for each student. By far, the majority of our students have access to the Internet and our technology staff has been working with providers to get options out there for families who currently do not have access. We will work with the families of students without access to communicate and deliver instruction in a variety of ways that are not Internet dependent.”
Educators will all have the option of working from home or using the school facilities as long as they follow the Minnesota Department of Health distancing guidelines.
At all four school districts, there will be no staff reductions, so all janitorial and administrative support staff will continue to maintain their regular hours.
Commencement for seniors
The superintendents of all four school districts are hopeful that students will return to school May 4, 2020, Governor Walz’ current target date. And, these area districts are proceeding with the assumption that graduating seniors will have a traditional ceremony. However, they are waiting for guidance from Governor Walz.