The Wadena-Deer Creek, Verndale and Staples-Motley school districts will transition grades 7-12 to hybrid learning on Oct. 19. Students in preK-6th grade will continue in-person learning.
School districts monitor the daily case counts and weekly case rates from the Minnesota Department of Health. As of Oct. 12, Wadena County has 126 cumulative positive COVID-19 cases. In the weeks leading up to the learning model change, the Wadena County case rate for Sept. 6-19 was 8.79 and for Sept. 13-26 was 11.73. The case rate is calculated by the total number of cases in Wadena County over the last 14 days divided by the county population over 10,000. The case rates are not the only factor that impacts the learning model for schools, the number of staff members and students quarantining as well as positive cases of COVID-19 in the school are also factors, as WDC Superintendent Lee Westrum noted.
The hybrid model for students in grades 7-12 includes in-person learning on Monday and Tuesday for 50% of the students and Wednesday and Thursday for the second group with both groups completing distance learning on Fridays, according to a message from Westrum. Schedules and information about breakfast and lunch for when students are not in school will be shared with families.
There will also be no school for all students preK-12th grade on Wednesday, Oct. 14.
The middle high school will complete the hybrid learning model for at least four weeks, according to Westrum. Athletic activities will continue if there are no outbreaks in a specific sport or team level.
“It is my hope that the number of new positive cases in the area will level off and we can return to in-person learning for grades 7-12 after a month,” Westrum said in the message.
With Wadena County’s increasing positive cases of COVID-19, students in grades 7-12 will start hybrid learning, as Superintendent Paul Brownlow said in an email to Verndale families on Oct. 9. All students will be released at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 14 for teachers to make preparations. The Verndale school website will have more information.
The district’s hybrid learning model for 7-12th grade students is based on grade level with 7-8th graders in-person Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and 9-12th graders in-person on Wednesday and Friday, according to a message from Superintendent Shane Tappe. These students will complete distance learning when not at the school, with participation during regular school hours required for attendance.
“As always, our goal is to have students on-site, full-time and this decision was not made lightly. Because of your partnership in keeping students healthy, we have not seen significant spread in our school buildings, however the spread in our community has become serious enough to make our first learning model change,” Tappe said in the message to families.
If a student needs to access CTE shops, internet or IEP services on a distance learning day, the school should be called at 218-894-5400 extension 3509 by 2 p.m. the day prior, according to Tappe. Bus drivers may also contact families about changes to the bus route since capacity may need to be decreased.
For questions on the hybrid learning model, call Principal Mike Schmidt at 218-894-5400 extension 3124.
The Bertha-Hewitt school district transitioned 7-12th grade students to hybrid learning on Oct. 12. The students are split into two groups with group one attending school on Monday and Thursday and group two on Tuesday and Friday with Wednesday as a distance learning day for both groups, according to a letter from Superintendent Eric Koep on Oct. 5. This learning model will continue until at least Nov. 6.
“We understand that changing models is not easy for our families, so we wanted to be sure to give you sufficient time to prepare for this change. We also want to give our staff adequate time to put together distance learning plans to meet the needs of each student,” Koep said in the letter.
In a joint letter on Oct. 8, school administrators from the Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Morrison, Todd and Wadena county areas asked community members to continue following health and safety guidelines to allow the schools to remain open for students and families.
“Officials at MDH have said the COVID-19 virus is, for the most part, spreading outside of school – transmission is happening in community settings and at family and social gatherings,” the letter stated.
The guidelines include avoiding crowds, having family and social gatherings outdoors, staying at least 6 feet away from people, wearing a mask, washing your hands and staying home when you feel sick.
Local district updates as of Oct. 14:
Menahga: In-person learning continues, and the school board approved staff development days for Oct. 9 and Nov. 6 to prepare for possible distance learning, according to a post from Superintendent Kevin Wellen on Oct. 7.
New York Mills: After working with Otter Tail County Public Health, the district will continue in-person learning since there are no positive cases of COVID-19 in the district, according to an Oct. 8 Facebook post.
Freshwater Education: The in-person learning model is continuing with a calendar change of no school on Nov. 9, according to an Oct. 14 Facebook post.