Last night, the SLC school board met for a special board meeting to discuss our safe learning plan. The meeting was attended by several parents and staff members, including local physicians and health professionals. We had a presentation by Megan Heuer, the director of Beltrami County Public Health, and Mark Bjornrud, SLC’s COVID coordinator, also presented the current Beltrami County Data.
After much discussion, the school board voted unanimously to adopt our safe learning plan as it is written, with the understanding that there are some parts of our plan that are still under development.
When drafting this plan, the leadership at Schoolcraft held these three priorities in mind:
Health and Safety of all staff and students
Completely in person learning for as many students as possible
The return to activities and programming that we had been enjoying prior to the pandemic
Here are the highlights of the plan:
Masking: SLC will be starting the school year with universal masking. This means that staff, students and visitors will be required to wear a face covering whenever they are inside a building. Students will also be required to mask on school buses, which is a federal requirement. We do plan to write an exception for students who have documented health issues or disabilities, and also for certain staff members who might need to wear a face shield to perform their job duties (speech pathologists, for example)
I do believe that masking is an important mitigation strategy, particularly for students under the age of 12 who do not currently have access to a vaccine. Additionally, the state has written a change in their quarantine guidance, whereby if a classroom is properly masked and there is a COVID-positive student, we only have to quarantine the student who is positive. This means that as long as students are properly masked, we can avoid having to quarantine whole classrooms and entire school buses, as we had to do last year on several occasions. This new provision, to me, was the most convincing support towards universal masking at SLC.
Shifting Learning Models: There is not currently any guidance for schools about shifting learning models. At this time, SLC does not have any plans to move to hybrid or distance learning models, and would only do so if the school could no longer operate safely due to staff absences. It is our goal to be fully in person and open all year long. Additionally, there is no full time distance learning option this year. We will have an option available for students who are quarantined or isolated for reasons related to COVID.
Other activities: It is a goal of SLC’s safe learning plan that we return to as many of the activities and programming that we were enjoying pre-pandemic as can be safely done. Therefore, with the adoption of universal masking, we will be returning to many of those activities, including community crew meetings, book buddies, buddy crews, electives, and extra-curriculars. One exception to this is for meal times- for breakfast, students will be eating either in their classrooms or outside, and lunch will be split into two shifts (rather than a K-8 community lunch), to allow students more opportunity to spread out.
The full plan can be accessed here: Safe Learning Plan As details are worked out, or new information becomes available, we will be adding updates to the plan.
Please note that we are hopeful that we will not feel the need to be masking all year long. Each month, the school board reviews current county level data and there is a provision in our plan to allow the school board to make changes any time. If you would like access to the data that the board reviews, it can be found here: SLC COVID Data Dashboard
I recognize that a return to masking is not good news for some Schoolcrafters, and I am hopeful that we can work through this together. SLC Leadership considered many alternatives or compromises to universal masking, but in the end, felt that this direction was the best for now. I am very thankful to Beltrami Public Health and Sanford Health for their advice on this complicated issue.
To close, I want to express how proud I am of our community during this process and at our meeting last night. While emotions were high, and opinions diverse, the meeting was civil, orderly, and supportive. It was clear that the goal of those in attendance was to discern a solution that met the needs of our students, but also of the Bemidji community as a whole. The board revisited our mission statement several times to help guide our thinking on this matter, with the word compassion being brought up on several occasions.
We are looking forward to having all of our students under one roof again. As always, please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.