OUR VIEW: Schools should be opened - carefully
July 24, 2020
What can we expect when the schools open this fall with the pandemic ongoing? The Minnesota Department of Education has created three scenarios, with input from the Minnesota Department of Health. A decision will be made soon, and we don’t know if the decision will be statewide or district-by-district.
Scenario 1 is a return to school in person, with social distancing but some flexibility. Scenario 2, a
hybrid, has schools open but with capacity limits, hard guidelines on social distancing, and perhaps students in classrooms one to several days a week. Scenario 3 is distance learning, which is how school finished last spring.
While many of us would like to see schools return to normal, such a decision would have to keep students and staff safe from contracting the coronavirus. And because we have made significant progress in understanding the virus since it first appeared in late 2019, we feel full-on distance learning is not necessary at this point.
That leaves the hybrid model, which we feel will keep students safe while providing the best educational opportunities possible. Unfortunately, it is also the most challenging model for most school districts. Keep in mind that the choice of scenario may change throughout the year, depending on the rates of disease in a particular area.
If past practice continues, the decision will be made at the state level through the collaboration of the governor, the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Health. Individual school districts will probably not determine which scenario will be followed, at least for now, but a hybrid plan will allow districts more flexibility in how they handle students.
We know it’s best for the mental health of our students that they have some kind of in-person contact with their teachers and peers. Additionally, going to school in-person should help prevent some students from falling through the cracks, which happened last spring. And we trust each school district to come up with the best plans for their particular circumstances.
We trust our local school leaders, who have been preparing for each scenario all summer, and believe they have the students’ best interests in mind, to both educate them and protect them. And we believe they are capable of doing both, even in this time of crisis. Staff and administration should be applauded for working more than they usually do in the summer to carefully plan for school reopening on top of all the usual tasks and planning for curriculum and a new year.
We will continue to discuss the risks of Covid-19 in the coming months, but schools need to start this fall in some capacity. We feel the hybrid model is best suited for Carlton County students, where cases are still relatively low — and so is the population density — and we encourage the governor and state agencies to come to the same conclusion.