COVID-19 Planning Update 8/12/20

Dear Parents,

Thank you for your patience and understanding of all of the adjustments necessitated by new information and frequently changing conditions. Every day, the teaching team, front office staff, and board members work hard to make well-considered decisions rooted in our families’ best interests of both health and education. We understand the difficulty that the pandemic and its required school responses are placing on families.

This email contains a lot of information; we expect to share more with you as decisions are made. We are working on a website update so that the latest information is presented in one place. 

Please also be aware that our decisions and the information presented here are subject to change prior to the start of the school year, and it is likely we will have to shift during the school year including changing learning models at various times in the year as COVID rates fluctuate.

Start Date Reminder

The River Grove Board of Directors approved a revised start of school to Tuesday, September 8 (for grades 1-6) in order to give teachers and staff additional planning time as a group. Kindergarten Welcome Conferences will be on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 8 and 9. The first full day of kindergarten will be Thursday, September 10. The full calendar can be found here on our website.

Individual Welcome Conferences for All Students and Required Online Orientation!

During the week of August 31, we will be holding Welcome Conferences for each student in grades 1-6. A signup sheet will be sent via email. This will be an opportunity for you to meet your teachers in a small group setting (one family at a time), drop off school supplies, pick up a mask or two and a parent transportation “car card,” confirm your transportation and emergency contact information, get acquainted with the campus and our revised arrival and dismissal procedures, and for the teachers to get to know the kids. Because all students, new and returning, have not been in a school setting for some time, this is an especially important back-to-school transition for all families and students.

Also during the week of August 31, we will hold required virtual orientation sessions. 

Hybrid Model Pattern

As previously announced on 8/7/20, River Grove will start the school year with the Hybrid Model.  Schools will operate at a maximum of 50% capacity both in schools and on buses. All students will be divided into two groups, A group and B group, as follows:

Hybrid Schedule

The reasons for this decision are many and include considering students’ educational needs and schedules of families who have students in our resident district. River Grove had an individual consultation with the Minnesota Department of Health, who confirmed that the school’s plan for daily morning cleaning of each classroom is sufficient disinfecting in between A and B days, and that there was likely not a significant advantage to having a Wednesday being the “C” day for cleaning.

To create our Hybrid Model groupings, we will start with dividing the classes alphabetically, such as A-L and M-Z. We will schedule families together on the same days. Other factors we will consider include even group sizes, special needs, teacher recommendations, transportation concerns, and significant family conflicts. The groupings will be determined by Friday August 14 and announced the following week.

Distance Learning Opt-In: Families Have More Time to Decide

As stated previously, all families are allowed to select full-time Distance Learning as their learning model. A medical reason is not required. Our staff is in the process of finalizing plans for this model (as well as the Hybrid Model) and more information will be released soon.  We believe that full-time Distance Learning can be a viable option to match many of our families’ comfort levels while still keeping them a part of our River Grove community. The previous survey offered families a chance to select Distance Learning; we will contact you to confirm your choice. If you didn’t select Distance Learning previously, and would like to opt into Distance Learning, you will have the opportunity to do so after more model information is available. (The previous date was Wednesday, August 12.) If we do not hear a specific written request for your family to opt into Distance Learning, we will assume your family will be in the Hybrid Model.

Once either the Hybrid (by default) or Distance Learning Model is selected by your family, we will ask your family to remain with that schedule at least until after MEA break. Staffing, curriculum pacing, and transportation are some of the factors that have gone into this decision. If your family chooses to change  models, we will need a written request no later than Friday, October 2. The change would take place after MEA break: Monday, October 19 (assuming the same models are in place at River Grove in general and space exists in the alternate model).

Safety Protocols

River Grove staff are carefully developing safety and hygiene protocols that fit our unique campus. All of our revised procedures and policies will be discussed at student Welcome Conferences and during online orientation. Following the protocols and policies will be emphasized regularly and will allow us to have kids on campus for longer. Some of our plans include (but not limited to):

  • Symptom screening: We will ask parents to conduct a COVID-19 screening of their children at home before coming to school (or getting on the bus); as a safety measure, staff will also screen students for any symptoms upon arrival using an infrared thermometer. 
  • Extensive cleaning: Additional procedures are being developed, including daily disinfecting in the mornings before school starts for every classroom.
  • Hygiene: Hand-sanitizing stations are being added in each building. All students and staff will be encouraged to wash their hands regularly with soap and water.
  • Masks: Governor Walz has directed that masks or face coverings must be worn throughout Minnesota in all indoor public spaces, including buses and school buildings. This will apply to all visitors, staff, and students (kindergarten and older). Students should practice wearing masks now! 
    • Students should wear masks during the morning symptom screenings and on the pathways when going to and from classrooms and buses/parents’ cars.
    • River Grove will supply at least one free mask per student (available at our student Welcome Conferences). Masks will be provided for students and visitors who forget theirs at home. 
    • In outdoor classrooms, masks may or may not be required depending on the situation/activity. This decision will be at the discretion of teachers who will follow state safety guidelines and protocols. In general, MDH guidance allows for masks to be removed outdoors when social distancing can be maintained or when participating in a physical activity.
  • COVID-19 exposure: The MDH is revising it’s “decision tree” that will guide our actions for suspected and reported COVID-19 cases on campus. Please stay tuned for more information on how the MDH will require us to report cases, do contact tracing, and instruct students and staff to quarantine.
  • Supplies: Lists will be available soon. We will limit sharing of supplies between students.
  • Revised procedures: Changes are being developed for arrivals and dismissals, lunch, recess, and office operations that involve families. 
    • Important note: Students will walk by themselves to their classrooms in the mornings. Staff will be positioned on the pathways to help guide kids.  
  • Emergency contact information: Families will be asked to review and update emergency contacts.
  • Field trips and extracurricular activities: Social distancing and limiting the amount of time for student contact will help limit the spread of the virus. For the time being, we will not have in-person assemblies or field trips, etc.
  • Ventilation: We are working with our landlord to inspect, test, and ensure that the ventilation systems are functioning at maximum levels. Windows and screen are being assessed to ensure they are in working order.
  • Buses: All buses will be disinfected following state guidelines. We will follow social distancing guidelines on buses, and students will have assigned seats. We will encourage parents to provide their own transportation when possible.
  • Visitors and volunteers: We will limit non-essential visitors, volunteers, and external groups/organizations on campus.

Childcare for Tier One Workers

Per the governor’s executive order, Minnesota schools must provide care for children of “essential workers” at no cost during the school day at times when the district is operating in a hybrid or distance learning model. Essential workers will be asked to provide verification of employment. No verification is required if you already have a letter on file with us from spring 2020, or if you are an employee of River Grove. The exact details for childcare are still being decided.

Parent Transportation

If you indicated on the survey that you are able to provide transportation, we will be in contact with you to confirm.

Again, we expect to share more with you as decisions are made. Please also be aware that our decisions and the information presented here are subject to change prior to the start of the school year, and it is likely we will have to shift during the school year including changing learning models at various times in the year as COVID rates fluctuate.

The River Grove Team

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