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June 18 Superintendent's Update

June 18, 2020

Dear Westonka Families and Staff,

I hope summer vacation for your student(s) and family is off to a great start. As promised, I am writing today to keep you updated on information just released by the state with regard to the start of school.

State Update on Start-of-School Scenarios

Over the past several weeks, Westonka Public Schools staff has been creating contingency plans for the fall around three scenarios: in-person instruction, distance learning, and a hybrid of the two. This afternoon, we received detailed guides from the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education on what the 2020-2021 school year could look like under each of these scenarios (see links to the complete guides below).

Representatives from the departments of health and education explained today that any of these scenarios could apply at different times during the 2020-2021 school year, depending on changing COVID-19 metrics. Individual schools and districts may also be directed by the state to switch educational models during the year in reaction to COVID-19 cases in their communities. Here is a broad overview of the three scenarios released today:

Scenario 1: In-person learning for all students. In this planning scenario, schools should create as much space between students and teachers as is feasible during the day, but will not be held strictly to enforcing 6 feet of social distancing during primary instructional time in the classroom. Activities and extracurricular programming should continue to follow the Guidance for Social Distancing in Youth Sports. This scenario may be implemented if state COVID-19 metrics continue to stabilize and/or improve.

Scenario 2: Hybrid model with strict social distancing and capacity limits. In this planning scenario, schools must limit the overall number of people in school facilities and on transportation vehicles to 50% maximum occupancy. Sufficient social distancing with at least 6 feet between people must occur at all times. If distancing cannot be achieved in a space or on a transportation vehicle, the number of occupants must be reduced. Schools must also include plans for contactless pick-up and/or delivery of meals and school materials for days that students and staff are not in the school building, as well as implementation of a school-age care program for critical workers. This scenario may be implemented if COVID-19 metrics worsen at the local, regional, or statewide level. Scenario 2 may also be implemented within a school if they experience clusters of cases within a classroom or the school.

Scenario 3: Distance learning only. This scenario may be implemented if local, regional, or statewide COVID-19 metrics worsen significantly enough to require the suspension of in-person learning. The requirements in the state guidance regarding in-person protections would not apply to the general school community, as students and staff would be utilizing distance learning and would not be gathering in groups on school grounds. However, schools may be open to provide emergency child care or other functions.

[Minnesota Department of Health Fall Planning Guide]

[Minnesota Department of Education Fall Planning Guide]

Gov. Tim Walz is expected to make final determination the week of July 27 on the educational delivery model that will be used at the start of the 2020-2021 school year. We will communicate with families as soon as we receive this important update. We are awaiting an update from the state high school league with regard to fall sports and activities and will communicate with families once we receive information.

Over the next several weeks, the Westonka Public Schools leadership team will be finalizing our district’s plans and procedures for the start of school. We will share detailed information with families and staff in August once we receive word from the governor on the scenario under which we will be operating. 

Please know that Westonka’s goal is to reopen everything we can this fall for students and families in accordance with MDH and MDE requirements. We will continue to keep you informed each step of the way and are committed to delivering high quality education in a positive and safe learning environment, whatever that may look like.

  • Share Your Distance Learning Experience - MDE wants to hear from parents about their distance learning experience as they plan for the 2020-2021 school year. We encourage all Westonka families to complete MDE's Fall Planning Survey to share your experience with the state: http://sgiz.mobi/s3/2020-Parent-Distance-Learning-Feedback-Survey

  • Staffing/Substitute Teachers - Westonka Public Schools is working to increase substitute and custodial staff to put us in the best possible position to have students in school next year. Learn more about becoming a short call sub for the district.

  • MWHS Graduation - This spring, Class of 2020 families overwhelmingly supported a Flexible Date Plan for graduation that prioritizes an in-person ceremony. Current state health regulations do not allow for the type of in-person ceremony that was outlined in the MWHS graduation survey (i.e., allowing two guests per graduate on Haddorff Field); therefore, we will not be able to hold graduation on June 25, the first contingency date. That means graduation for the MWHS Class of 2020 will take place on Thursday, July 23. Families can expect to receive more information regarding the graduation plans following the Fourth of July holiday.

    At 6:30 p.m. on July 23, Mound Westonka High School will either hold:

  1. An in-person ceremony on Haddorff Field (which will also be live streamed), or
  2. A virtual ceremony with an in-person diploma distribution
    • If needed, our plan is to complement a virtual ceremony with a drive-thru diploma distribution at MWHS in which graduates walk across a stage, receive their diploma folders, and have a professional photo taken. Parents, family members and other guests would be able to watch this rite of passage safely from their vehicles.
    • The safety of our graduates and guests is our top priority, and we are working to ensure our graduation plans adhere to the highest health and safety standards. In the case of inclement weather, we will move forward with Plan B (virtual ceremony). After a careful review of our facilities, we determined that we would be unable to ensure safe social distancing in an indoor environment.

Please continue to watch for updates via email and on the district website as we prepare for the start of school. I hope you and your family are having a safe and enjoyable summer.

Sincerely,

Kevin

Kevin Borg, Superintendent
borgk@westonka.k12.mn.us
(952) 491-8001