Dr. Heather Mueller, Minnesota Department of Education Deputy Commissioner, and Dan Huff, Minnesota Department of Health Assistant Commissioner, reviewed COVID-19 health data and mitigation strategies along with Minnesota's Safe Learning Plan in order to address staff questions.
The following questions were able to be addressed by the District.
Question: If a student or teacher in a classroom tests positive, will the whole class be notified and do a quarantine? (there is, in theory, 3 foot social distancing, but we are in the same room for hours).
Answer: Each building has a COVID coordinator. These individuals, along with the District COVID coordinator, work in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). If a positive COVID-19 case is confirmed for a student or staff member, our coordinator(s) in partnership MDH determine any potential next steps such as notification of close contacts, quarantine, isolation, classroom or school closures. These decisions vary on a case-by-case basis due to factors such as number of individuals exposed, setting/location, duration of exposure, etc.
Question: If we have a student whose family has chosen in person learning but changes their mind will they be allowed to change their enrollment into distance learning?
Answer: While we want to accommodate students and families in any way we can, this will depend on various factors including staffing, class size and services. We recommend families looking to make a change email the 281 Distance Learning School directly.
Question: As we have access to testing every other week and false positives happen, if I take a test for COVID and have positive results, then take another test right after and have negative results (with no symptoms/no known exposure), will I still be required to quarantine? As a licensed support staff, if I am required to quarantine due to exposure/positive test; however, have no symptoms or feel well enough to work, will I be allowed to continue working from home to continue working on due process, attend meetings virtually, do lesson plans, etc. or will I be required to take PTO?
Answer: Out of an abundance of caution, any staff with a positive test result will be required to quarantine, even in the event they have recently had a test with a negative result or are not displaying symptoms because of the possibility of positive, asymptomatic cases. The ability to work from home will vary based on contract and supervisor approval. In the event staff are unable to work from home, they may be required to use PTO. Please note, more details regarding PTO and quarantine requirements will be provided soon as potential updates are currently in underway.
Question: How do we wash our hands when our building water is cold? What if our building is not able to provide a guideline in the COVID Safety Guidelines who do we report too and how will that be addressed?
Answer: CDC guidelines outline soap and water as a mitigation strategy, water temperature is not identified as a factor. Safety guideline concerns can be reported to your supervisor. Depending on the concern, this may be addressed by the building/district COVID coordinator, Operations, the Incident Command Team, etc.
Question: How and when will students be able to use the bathroom? Will they be supervised to ensure they are following safety protocols?
Answer: Elementary classes typically visit the restroom as a class with a staff member providing supervision. Secondary students will be able to use the restroom as needed. Students will be encouraged to use hand sanitizer as they enter classrooms.
Question: Will students be allowed to drink from the water fountains?
Answer: Students will be allowed to drink from water fountains and will also be able to bring water bottles from home.
What will happen if a staff member gets sick (COVID-19 or other)? There is a shortage of subs and bringing in another adult also increases exposure and risk.
Answer: Each building has a COVID coordinator. These individuals, along with the District COVID coordinator, work in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). If a positive COVID-19 case is confirmed for a student or staff member, our coordinator(s) in partnership MDH determine any potential next steps such as notification of close contacts, quarantine, isolation, classroom or school closures. These decisions vary on a case-by-case basis due to factors such as number of individuals exposed, setting/location, duration of exposure, etc. As with previous school years, our district has access to a pool of substitute teachers to utilize in the event of staff absence.
Question: How will students continue their education in music, art and gym?
Answer: For elementary students gym classes will take place in the gym, while Computer Science, Media, Music and Spanish will take place in the classroom. Specialists will rotate classrooms with smaller groups of students over a two-week period of time, limiting exposure to the number of students.
Art specialists will also rotate classrooms and will follow a 10 day digital schedule.
Band and Orchestra will adhere to the five day rotation schedule. Teachers can teach lessons concurrently with in-person and distance learning students, record their lessons for distance learning students, or teach distance learners at a different time. These plans are developed in consultation with classroom teachers.
Buildings may utilize music rooms, art rooms and media centers if mitigation steps have been taken, processes are detailed in the Site Preparedness Plan and approved by the COVID coordinator.
Question: As you know, special education programs run differently from regular education classes. Teachers and Educational Assistants work hands on with students for functional skills such as toileting, eating and other self care. How does this align with the safety precautions of 6 feet away and masks?
Answer: Staff will have access to both face coverings and face shields, with face coverings being required. Staff have access to gloves, medical masks and disposable gowns when providing personal care that could expose staff to bodily fluids. Our PPE and student care procedures are in alignment with the MDH Guidance for Delivering Direct Student Support Services: Staff Protective Equipment.
Question: When people are talking about COVID relief funds why are there not any funds for personnel? We have been told that those funds were only for supplies. Why is funding not being provided for extra teachers to be hired so that class sizes are not so large when returning to school?
Answer: COVID relief funds provided to school districts were approved for specific uses. The District has staffed the in-person and distance learning school based on school board ratios. Four additional staff members have been hired to support a few schools which had class sizes over board ratio. We will continue to monitor class sizes and support schools if the class sizes increase.
Question: If students are eating in the classroom (indoor dining) will the air be safe for the teacher to take off their mask? (While working alone/calling parents/student recess time.) Clearly the teacher will be wearing a mask and shield at all times when another person is in the room. We have been told students will be eating in classrooms twice a day without masks. How safe is this? Thank you.
Answer: Where students will eat varies by building. Elementary students will eat lunch in the cafeteria if the space allows for six feet of distance between students. If physical distancing between students cannot be accommodated in the cafeteria and cohorts cannot be clearly separated within the cafeteria, students will eat lunch in their classrooms. Please check with your building administrator with any questions regarding where staff should eat and or/ conduct prep activities.
In the event staff need to remove their mask while students are eating in the classroom, staff should maintain 6 feet of distance from students and follow additional mitigation strategies including hand washing, wearing a mask and face shield, and avoid touching your face.
Question: How will students be eating lunch? If they remain in their classroom and remove their masks, there is an exponential increase in risk for both students and staff, so what precautionary measures will be taken for the protection of all?
Answer: Where students will eat lunch will vary by building. Elementary students will eat lunch in the cafeteria if the space allows for six feet of distance between students. If physical distancing between students cannot be accommodated in the cafeteria and cohorts cannot be clearly separated within the cafeteria, students will eat lunch in their classrooms. For students eating in classrooms, desks will be cleaned after each meal.