Notes from the River Grove: A Marine Area Community School Board Meeting 8-6-20
Dear River Grove Families,
Last night the River Grove Board of Directors made three important decisions that will impact the upcoming school year.
1) Learning Model Decision: School Year to Start with “Hybrid”
The most significant is that the board voted unanimously to utilize the “Hybrid Model” of instruction to start the school year. This decision was made after very carefully and heavily weighing many key factors, including teacher/staff recommendations, data from the recent parent survey, trending and projected COVID-19 case rate numbers in Washington County, and the need for model consistency and avoiding a likely switch very early in the school year. Also playing an important role was the planning time necessary to start the year for both our staff and our families.
We know that there is no true substitute for full in-person learning especially on our amazing campus. While our overall goal remains getting kids back on campus, our overriding concern is the health and safety of our students and staff. We will continue to assess local data and consult with the Minnesota Department of Health on key indicators to be ready to make a decision to return to full in-person learning when conditions safely allow for it. In the meantime, we hope that Hybrid Model learning will give our students at least some incremental time at school with their peers, something we know they have been longing for and aids in their development.
As noted previously, it is possible that we will shift into other learning models as the 14-day case rate for Washington County changes.
The Hybrid Model will divide students into two groups and will include a mix of in-person, on-campus days with distance learning days. The use of these groups will minimize the number of students on campus, lowering the risk of exposure and allowing the school to assess the effectiveness of many necessary new procedures. In addition, teachers will have smaller, more manageable cohort sizes to implement outdoor classroom activities and instruction. We realize that parents have many questions regarding the specifics of the Hybrid Model. Now that the board decision has been made, teachers and staff are moving quickly to design the learning program and alter the many procedures that will change. More information on your student’s specific hybrid grouping and schedule will be released soon.
We know that there are a lot of important parent questions regarding next school year and our COVID response procedures. Please stay tuned for:
- More info about our Hybrid Model and how it relates to your family
- Distance Learning info for those who have opted-in to that model
- More info about staggered arrival and departure
- Transportation info
- An FAQ document
- A full COVID Response Parent Handbook
- Required online orientations (week of Aug 31)
- Strongly recommended back-to-school tours covering new procedures (week of Aug 31)
As stated in previously, all families are allowed to select full-time Distance Learning as their learning model to start the year. A medical reason is not required. Our staff is in the process of finalizing plans for this 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, please email Ele Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org. The default model for your family will be Hybrid unless we get a written request by Wednesday, August 12.
2) Calendar Revisions: New Start Date is Sept. 8
The River Grove Board also approved a revised calendar for the 2020-2021 school year. The new calendar pushes back the start of school to Tuesday, September 8 (for grades 1-6) in order to give teachers and staff additional planning time as a group. In order to maintain the required student contact time, many “early release” days were changed to regular full days. 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.
3) School Day Length/Staggered Arrival and Dismissal
Finally, the Board also approved a reduction in the school day by 30 minutes. Student hours will be 8:30-3:00 (instead of 3:30). This will have little impact on instructional time. Because students will be eating lunch with their own classes (and not in the Commons as a large group), we are saving transition time. Lunchtime recess will be shortened very slightly (about 5 minutes). Dismissal will be directly from the classes, saving time there; students will not congregate in the Commons before being released.
Please note that actual arrival and dismissal times may vary, as the school will be implementing staggered arrival and dismissal times. More information on this topic will be released soon.
We know that there are a lot of important parent questions regarding next school year and our COVID response procedures. An FAQ guide will be published soon and placed on our website. A full COVID Response Parent Handbook will be approved at the August 25 Board of Directors meeting and distributed to families soon after.
Additionally, we will be requiring all families to attend a virtual (online) orientation session the week of August 31 (or view a recording of a meeting), and to sign up for a strongly recommended brief back-to-school on-campus tour of our new procedures (and to drop off supplies and pick up masks and “parent pickup car cards”). More information on this will be distributed soon.
Thank you all for your patience and understanding with us during this challenging time. Our dedicated, amazing teachers and staff are looking forward to serving your child this coming school year.
The River Grove Team