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home : schools : schools
January 24, 2021

12/4/2020 1:30:00 PM
Distance learning at CL through Jan. 22

The Chisago Lakes School Board bumped a scheduled special meeting up two days and met Monday, November 30.  In the meeting, there were updates on the learning models, activities and small in-person gatherings while in the distance learning model.

The meeting began with an update on learning models.  The district should remain in full distance learning until at least Friday, January 22, which is the end of the second term, as recommended by the Incident Command Team, made up of stakeholders throughout the district.

According to Superintendent Dean Jennissen the main reason cited for the district remaining in distance mode is the climbing county covid-19 case numbers. The current rolling 14 day average of cases is 194.42 per 10,000 residents. “That is far, far, far exceeding the 50 cases per 10,000 recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health,”  Jennissen said.

He also noted that when they returned, from their first two week distance learning shutdown, cases surged within the school buildings. Jennissen explained that the district loses all ability to contact trace when students aren’t in the building, so he was hoping a three-week buffer after the holidays would work better. He also noted that since that’s when Term 2 ends, it was natural to select that date. “We felt more comfortable going three weeks (out) after the last two-week shutdown didn’t work as well as we hoped,” Jennissen explained.

Board member Dani Strenke asked if they would be bringing students back potentially by age groups, with younger students returning first. Jennissen said the county will have to help them with age group numbers to see if it makes sense to bring students back in stages.

“We could prioritize our buildings if the county shows our youngest learners aren’t contracting COVID,” he said. “We know the research says that the youngest learners have the least amount of positive cases. That would be our intention to look at our youngest learnings first.”

Board chairman Mark Leigh added, however, “Right now, it doesn’t look good.”

They are hoping to communicate future plans on Thursday, January 14, which is the first school board meeting scheduled in 2021.

Activities on hold until 2021
Officially, activities are on hold to at least Friday, December 18, as mandated by Governor Tim Walz. There hasn’t been a follow up since his original order if sports would resume, but with the high county case numbers, Chisago Lakes is planning a much later return. “We aren’t really intending on any activities to start before January 1,” Activities Director Jodi Otte said. “If the governor allows activities before January 1, we’ll have to talk about that because we aren’t anticipating it.”

Otte also noted that if the ban is lifted by the governor on Friday, December 18, the soonest teams could gather would be the following Monday, which lands just three days before Christmas Eve/Day. “With the holidays just a few days later, our recommendation would be to not do anything until after the first of January,” Jennissen said.

Otte did say that she would have an activities update at the regular December 17 meeting. Registration for winter sports will begin on December 21, but the start dates of practices is still to be determined.

Otte said once the decisions are made on the state level, Chisago Lakes will have to make its own decisions regarding when to start activities.

As it stands, the middle school play and holiday concert have been cancelled and the middle school basketball seasons will be discussed,  if the district can get to a hybrid model.

Otte said the schedule is already pretty tight with them.

At the high school level, One Act Play and the winter speed and strength program have been cancelled. There has not been a decision made on Speech yet, but Knowledge Bowl and Math League are moving forward in a virtual format.

With both One Act Play and the middle school play cancelled, Otte is hoping that in the spring Community Education will be able to offer some sort of dramatic performance or class. She said that’s something they are working on.

As for high school winter sports, Otte is still confident that if the current timeline holds of getting started sometime in January, they would still be able to get seasons in that were presented by the MSHSL earlier this year.

Small CTE and special ed gatherings
Jennissen brought up that the district is still looking at bringing in some in-person small group learning, specifically special education and career tech classes that really require hands-on experience.

Governor Walz has said that small groups can gather but that special education needs to be top priority. The soonest that these could start in Chisago Lakes would be January 15, Jennissen said. “As of today, we don’t anticipate it happening right away because of the high case count, but we do want to do it at the first opportunity that we feel it’s safe to do so,” the superintendent said.

“At the same time for special ed planning, we are planning for general education at risk and Career Tech (CTE) returning,” High School Principal Dave Ertl said.
“We’ll have Tier 1, 2 and 3 levels. Tier 2 is when we would hopefully be able to, with lower case counts, and the safety and capacity to offer CTE, to do such.”
An open forum speaker had mentioned how these hands-on classes were not the same happening remotely and children have struggled. Ertl added, “I believe the classes are critical, and I believe we have built, as a district, a very strong CTE program that’s able to provide those hands on experiences. As it stands right now, our staff if second to none. They are virtually providing the best distance learning CTE content as we can. It impacts us greatly because we have a robust CTE program. I agree with the speaker that it’s critical, and when we can do it safely, you have my pledge that we’ll be ready.”

On the Community Education front, the Wildcat Community Center and facility rental is on hold until at least December 18 in accordance with Governor mandates. If the fitness center restrictions are lifted on December 18, members would be able to come back to the fitness center, as well as rent facilities again. “We know people want our doors open, but we want to make sure we do this as safely as possible,” Community Ed Director Michelle Kleist said.  Community Education classes will be looking at a longer rest, though. Kleist said in-person classes will resume once the district can safely return to a hybrid model in schools.
Drivers Education will continue as allowed by Minnesota DMV.

A district change comes in the form of the hybrid learning model.

It was mandated that teachers get two and one half more hours of prep time when they returned to a hybrid model, so the district decided that Fridays will be full distance learning, even when the school is back to hybrid.

Chisago Lakes split students into two goups so 50 percent would be in school at any given time. In their plan to start the year, Green -Day students were in-person two days a week and every other Friday, Gold-Day students were in-person the other two days and the other Friday. But, Fridays will be distance learning for all students in the hybrid model to allow more prep time for teachers.

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