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Olson: Families need to start planning for learning model change

While he stresses the school board has the final say, Superintendent Olson says families should prepare for distance learning kicking in after Thanksgiving and lasting for at least 14 days.

Mike Christopherson

    The Crookston School Board at a special meeting late Thursday afternoon has on its agenda “Approve Learning Model.”

    The implication is clear: With COVID-19 cases surging in Polk County, a change in Crookston Public Schools’ current learning model is imminent. Although Superintendent Jeremy Olson stresses that board members have the final say and he doesn’t want to strong-arm them on any issues, he tells the Times that parents, guardians and families need to prepare for a change in the learning model from the current hybrid model to distance learning for all students.

    With the board meeting not until later on Thursday and not wanting to get ahead of himself or the board, Olson was willing to say before the meeting that – again, pending board approval – the return to an all-distance learning model would last for at least 14 days, and it would kick in after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

    The Times will update with more details after Thursday’s 4 p.m. special meeting.

    Olson stresses the need for parents, guardians and families to start planning now for the change.

    “This is coming fast,” he said. “I get the sense that this is coming very quickly.”

    The state’s “Safe Learning Plan” released in advance of the start of the school year includes five learning models that range from model #1, in-person learning for all students, to model #5, distance learning for all students. Model #2, in-person learning for elementary students and hybrid learning for secondary students, is what Crookston Public Schools has been implementing so far this school year. Model #3 has hybrid learning for all students, and model #4 has hybrid learning for elementary students and distance learning for secondary students.

    The models are based on a county’s average number of COVID-19 cases per capita over the most recent 14-day period that numbers are available. Last week in Polk County, that number was 113.3, far above the threshold for even model #5 – all distance learning – that is recommended to kick in when a county’s average case number over 14 days is 50 or more.

    Daily COVID-19 cases in Polk County reported by the Minnesota Department of Health since the most recent 14-day data indicate that the next 14-day average case report will be significantly higher than 113.3. Earlier this week, with 76 confirmed cases and four probable cases, Polk County had its highest single-day report of new COVID-19 cases since the pandemic struck.

    Other Polk County school districts are making changes in their instructional delivery models as well. Fisher Schools recently went to all distance learning for 14 days, and the East Grand Forks School Board is in talks to change the learning model in that district as well.

Child care, athletics

    Assuming there is a temporary return to distance learning for all students, Olson said the public schools would provide child care similar to last spring and what is currently being offered, such as on Wednesday’s 2W Day, which was the first 2W Day to be a full day of no instruction so teachers can collaborate and plan.

    Asked by the Times about what would become of the winter Pirates sports season – hockey, basketball, wrestling and dance – if there is a temporary change to all distance learning, Olson said he senses athletics will “probably be left alone.”

    “I know it will be discussed” at the special board meeting, he added.