Crookston School District to remain in learning model 2 after motion to change fails

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    Crookston School District will remain, for now, in learning model 2 after a motion to move to the next model failed with a 4-2 vote. Polk County has had a rise in positive COVID-19 cases and is currently at a rate of 33 per 10,000 in its 14-day county case level rate, plus Crookston itself (56716) rose 12 cases over the last week which caused concerns from members of the community including School Board member Dave Davidson who made the motion to change the district to learning model 3. Board member Patty Dillabough echoed his concerns and offered a second to his motion after they both shared that conversations with a number of educators led them to request the change in learning models.

    Superintendent Jeremy Olson told the board he and the incident command team, made up of two members from the CEA (Crookston Education Association), school district nurse, Polk County Public Health (PCPH) Director Sarah Reese, and district administration, have been meeting with PCPH on a weekly basis and it’s recommended the district remain in learning model 2 after looking further into localized data. He mentioned that all other districts in Polk County, at this time, are remaining in learning model 2 as well and he meets with area superintendents every Friday.

    Davidson told the board he thought they told the community they were going to go by the suggested number rate per 10,000 when considering learning model changes and wondered if there was a point where they would have to change models. Olson explained that the Minnesota Department of Health and/or Minnesota Department of Education could change their model arbitrarily and things could be overruled, but, at the moment, a change would not be justified after the look at local data.

    “More information is coming from the state about what data can be used and none of us really knew what local data they talked about when this was introduced,” said Olson. “I would never put my four children in a non-safe situation; my wife (also) works here. I believe our current protocols are satisfactory; we lean on Polk County Public Health to know if there’s a situation where we need to change our model.”

    School Board member Mike Theis said he prefers to be more “fluid” rather than go by a “line in the sand” when it comes to decisions for the district’s learning model, and added that he didn’t want to compare Crookston to East Grand Forks or Fosston. Board member Tim Dufault agreed saying Polk County is a “huge” area and referred to PCPH’s video explanations about positive numbers and how they could affect school districts. School Board chair Frank Fee said he preferred to go with the “scientific data” and follow public health’s recommendations. Board member Adrianne Winger wondered later if they would be “jumping the gun” by changing to a different model and if the district’s three recent positive cases contributed to that.

    Note: Over the last three days, positive cases have been announced at both Crookston High School (one case reported Sunday) and Highland Elementary School (two cases reported Monday.)

    When asked about the next steps if the model is changed, Olson said the district would give one week notice to teachers and parents unless there was a need for change due to an emergency and that the week before the change would keep them in the same learning model. KROX Radio’s Chris Fee added to the discussion that Argyle would be changing to distance learning for all their students for two weeks to limit the spread and that reminded Olson of the “tools in their tool box” like using a “14-day reset” before returning to the current learning model.

    “You quarantine the entire school and reset, and start your model again,” Olson explained. “You can also quarantine individual classrooms. We have tools in our tool box as we monitor the COVID-19 pandemic; there are a couple strategies.”

    Olson added that some of those strategies might be more effective as a whole rather than changing the learning model and reiterated his trust in PCPH, saying he finds them helpful and feels more confident after their “detailed” conversations.

    “If we stay with model 2 it doesn’t mean we always stay with model 2” Olson added, followed by a comment from Frank Fee saying he thought they could agree that COVID has not been predictable.


    How do schools determine their safe learning model with either in-person learning, hybrid learning or distance learning?

    • Step 1: Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) will use data from counties to determine a base learning model for public schools.

    • Step 2: Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) will share county data and the consultative process for public schools to engage with education and public health experts to review their county health data and safe learning plans.

    • Step 3: Public schools, with their incident command team, will evaluate their ability to implement required and recommended health best practices.

    • Step 4: Public schools, in consultation with public health, will determine a learning model to begin the school year and communicate that decision with their school community.

    • Step 5: Public schools and MDH will monitor the community and school-level impact of COVID-19 on a regular basis. Adjustments will be made to the learning model if needed.

    • Regardless of the learning model, all public schools must offer an equitable distance learning option to all families.

    • Learning Model 1: With 0-9 cases per 10,000 over 14 days, in-person learning for all students.

    • Learning Model 2: With 10-19 cases per 10,000 over 14 days, in-person learning for elementary students and hybrid learning for secondary students. *Crookston is currently in this model and grades 7-12 go to school on “Blue” or “Gold” days.*

    • Learning Model 3: With 20-29 cases per 10,000 over 14 days, hybrid learning for all students. *If Crookston changed to Model 3, elementary students in grades preschool through fourth grade would remain in-person and grades five and six would join high school students for hybrid learning plus there would be limited capacity at the elementary schools.*

    • Learning Model 4: With 30-49 cases per 10,000 over 14 days, hybrid learning for elementary students, distance learning for secondary students.

    • Learning Model 5: With 50+ cases per 10,000 over 14 days, distance learning for all students.