School board discusses options for fall semester

Danae Milbrandt

The Montevideo School Board met on Monday, August 10 at 6 p.m. One of the topics covered Monday evening was the decision regarding what the start of the 2020 school year will look like during the current COVID pandemic.

According to Dr. Luther Heller, Superintendent of Montevideo Public Schools, the board’s decision on the opening of the school year will be based on conditions present within the area in an effort to maintain the safest environment for students and staff.

“We are following the guidelines established by the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education,” said Heller. “Those guidelines include standards for hygiene, social distancing, the use of face masks and face shields, and frequent cleaning of classrooms and exposed surfaces. In addition, we are working with parents and students on conducting health screenings in an attempt to avoid having students coming to school when they are ill.”

At Monday’s meeting, the board approved the Base Learning Plan for the 2020-2021 school year.

“At this time,” Heller said, “the plan is for grades K-3 to start the year with all students in session.” He then said grades 4-7 in the middle school will be a hybrid model of schooling as previously discussed, with half of the students in session on Monday and Wednesday, and the other half in session on Tuesday and Thursday.

“Grades 8-12 in the high school will be a hybrid model as well, with 25 percent of the students in attendance each day, Monday through Thursday. The building principals will be working with families in the coming weeks to explain the various models,” Dr. Heller explained.

During the discussion, Maggie Kluver inquired how families are to be notified of the board’s decision regarding the first day of school.

Scott Hickey, principal of Montevideo High School, answered: “At the high school aswell as the middle school, as soon as a decision is made, we will get ahold of all of our parents, let them know which group they’re in, and our open house would tentatively be on the 25th and go from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It would operate much like our parent/teacher conferences with the parents and students making an appointment and coming in, or via virtual means if they did not want to come into the school.”

Hickey continued, “We would disseminate all our materials and make sure all of our students were on Google Classroom to start instruction on day one. People that would not be able to come into school would be provided a delivery or pick-up option of all their school materials.”

According to Shawn Huntley, principal of Montevideo Middle School, things would function nearly identically for the middle school.

“At the conference they would come in and get their Chromebooks; we would show them how to login to their Google Classroom so they can participate that first day of school,” he explained.

Huntley also stated that his proposal of a “phase-in” approach to schooling would be most effective.

“With us being elementary/middle school together, I think it allows us the opportunity to ‘phase-in’ more students over time. If things are going well in the first two weeks I think we can bring fourth grade back. And if things continue to improve then we bring fifth grade back, and so on,” he said.

Heller added that the district will be working closely with the departments of health and education as they track the disease within the area and the school system.

“Should we see a rise in the level of the virus within our community, we will work with the state on the appropriate response,” said Heller.

He also stated that on Monday, Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. (tonight) the board will have a work session to take action on calendar changes for PLC dates to act on Policy 808 COVID-19 Face Masks and Face Coverings, and to provide further discussion on how the district will be proceeding with the start of the school year.