Nevis School plans to have all students learning in person by Jan. 20, following the new guidelines for schools shared by Gov. Tim Walz Dec. 16 in executive order 20-103.

Students in Pre-K to grade 2 will return to in-person learning on Jan. 4, as planned, with students in grades 3-6 returning to in-person learning Jan. 6.

High school students will return from distance learning to the hybrid model Jan. 6-15. Staff for grades 7-12 will have inservice days Jan. 17-18, with high school students resuming in-person learning Jan. 20.

Back in the classroom

“I am thrilled that we are moving in a direction that has all of our students back in our classrooms,” Superintendent Gregg Parks said in his online announcement of the change. “I always caution that ‘COVID gets a vote’ as we will continue to monitor trends in our buildings and community and make adjustments when necessary. As always, working together is our best opportunity as a school and community to keep our schools open and everyone safe.”

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Prior to last week’s announcement by the governor, the Commissioner of Education met with all school leaders to share changes to the Minnesota Department of Education’s (MDE) Safe Learning Plan.

“Our school planning team has met and evaluated the impact of the changes and have put together a plan to meet the governor’s intent,” Parks said.

The new guidance is focused on reopening elementary schools using the in-person model by Jan. 18, regardless of the county case numbers, as long as additional mitigation efforts are in place.

The guidance allows schools that have already announced their plans to return prior to Jan. 18.

“This part of the guidance is key for Nevis Public School,” Parks said. “Our original timeline identified a return to a less restrictive model starting Jan. 4 for our students in grades 3-12. This means we can start the return to learn prior to Jan. 18. We believe we can do this in a safe and efficient manner in accordance with the MDE guidelines.”

New Mitigation Strategies

Schools must provide two planning days to staff when transitioning to a new model and implement an optional COVID-19 testing program for all school staff to be tested every other week by Jan. 4.

Face masks and shields must be worn by instructional staff at all times and clear barriers placed between educators and students when a six-foot distance cannot be maintained.

Students and staff will wear face coverings during physical education classes. School districts will no longer rely on county data to make decisions.

“We will be working over the three weeks to implement all of these mitigation strategies,” Parks said. “I know that the hybrid model is not popular with many, including me, but it does provide an opportunity to see our 7-12 students face-to-face prior to the end of the semester. Remember at the beginning of the year, I emphasized two things: flexibility and teamwork. Together, we can make the changes to our new learning models.”

Winter sports practices will begin Jan. 4.

How parents can help

Parks reminds parents that the state of Minnesota and Vault Medical Services have teamed up to offer at-home COVID saliva testing for everyone who lives in Minnesota, with or without symptoms at no cost. This is a less invasive test, especially for kids, and is very easy to use.

Tests can be ordered at https://learn.vaulthealth.com/state-of-minnesota. Call 800-800-5698 for more information.

“Keeping kids at home when displaying symptoms of COVID-19 and getting them tested will help our school to stay open,” Parks said. “The new guidance will provide some challenges as we work as a community to implement this plan.”