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11-3-2020 - Distance Learning Transition Message from Rick

November 3, 2020

Dear A Team Families:

We are writing to provide an update on our decision to transition students in grades 7-12 at Discovery Middle School and Alexandria Area High School to the distance learning model, effective Thursday, November 12 through Wednesday, December 2. We will reevaluate the data prior to Thanksgiving Break to see if there has been an improvement with the metrics that would support bringing 7-12 students back to a safe start model on December 3.

We realize the decision to transition 7-12 students to a distance learning model will create some challenges for those families affected. But as communicated last week, this decision allows us to prioritize our youngest learners (PreK through 6th grade) and provides time for us to recalibrate resources.

The following factors are guiding our decision:

  • The numbers of staff and students under quarantine due to close contact with confirmed COVID cases continues to follow the trend line of our county case rate data.
  •  A shortage of substitute teachers and staff which means the district does not have enough substitutes to cover absences.
  • MDE & MDH guidelines within the state’s Safe Learning Plan, and feedback from the District’s COVID Advisory Team.

PreK through grade 5 will continue with the in person learning model.  Grade 6 will continue in the safe start/hybrid model.  

NO SCHOOL, Monday, Nov 9 for Grades 6-12
Monday, November 9 will be teacher planning and preparation day with no school grade 6-12 students in attendance, either on-site or virtually.  Many of our DMS staff serve all grade levels and thus we need them to be prepared for the transition to distance learning.

Group A (A-K) learner group will attend school on-site Tuesday, November 10 and the Group B (L-Z) learner group will attend school on-site on Wednesday, November 11 in an effort to meet with their teachers and pick up any necessary learning resources currently at school.

Distance learning will begin for all students in grades 7-12 on Thursday, November 12.  More information about schedules during the distance learning period will be coming from DMS and AAHS.

Special Education Services: Students who receive Special Education services will continue to receive those services as outlined in their Contingency Learning Plan (CLP), which is a part of their Individual Education Plan (IEP). These services are designed to continue to provide each student with the opportunity to continue to access their education and special education services through a distance learning model.   If you have questions regarding your child's Contingency Learning Plan (CLP), please contact your child's case manager. Additional information regarding specialized services during distance learning will be communicated to families by the case manager or program.    

Special Education evaluations will continue even during this time of distance learning. Parents/guardians will be notified by their student's case manager regarding how the evaluation will continue and be completed as outlined in the student's Evaluation Plan. Evaluation meetings and IEP team meetings will be completed virtually during this time of distance learning.

Technology: Each student has been provided a district-issued Chromebook for use during this distance learning period. Students in grades 7-12 will use Google Meet, Schoology & Google Drive as their primary instructional tools on their district-issued device to access their assignments during distance learning. Please refer to our district technology website for further information, troubleshooting tips and/or technical support information @ www.alexschools.org/technology

Food Service – Meal Pickups: Alexandria Public Schools is offering to have meals delivered to your home during distance learning for grades 7-12.  (Meal delivery will not be an option to families who have chosen 100% distance learning as their learning model at the start of the school year). Lunch will include an entrée, either fresh or microwaveable, fruit, vegetable and milk.  Breakfast will include fruit, milk and 2 other breakfast items.  An email will be sent out this evening to families of students grades 7-12 to sign up for meal delivery.  Meal delivery will officially begin Nov. 16th.  Options to pick up meals until delivery begins will be made available and more information on this will be in the email sent out tonight. 

Transportation: Transportation will continue for Pre-K through 6th Grade.  At this time students will be riding the same bus, but pick up times may be adjusted for students who may have been on the same route as older students (Grades 7-12).  We will be adjusting routes as we work through our changing Educational Programming.  Information will be updated nightly into the ParentVue section available on our website.  All attempts will be made to contact parents for any major changes to the routes.  Thank you for your patience and help as we work through this together.  

Athletics and Activities: As we transition into the distance learning model, the AAHS Activities department will finish the fall season as scheduled.  As noted earlier, the factors affecting our decision to move into the distance learning model for 7-12 is based primarily on staffing shortages. MDE identifies, “As long as you are not moving into distance learning due to substantial, uncontrolled spread in schools and/or a significant degree of impact with multiple confirmed cases, or large-scale outbreaks occurring among students and staff, you can continue activities.” At this time, this is not the case at Discovery Middle School or Alexandria Area High School. Currently, there is not a large-scale infection of COVID-19 in our student athlete or coaching positions; therefore, we can continue activities and I am allowing teams to finish their fall season and begin practice preparations for winter activities, while operating within the MSHSL and MDH guidelines. 

Please be advised that we will continuously review any close contacts or positive cases in our student-athletes and coaches. Our district team and activities director believe that it is important to continue our activities program due to the related mental and physical health benefits.

Currently football, volleyball, and our Fall Play have portions of their seasons remaining. Throughout this school year, and in alignment with MDE/MDH, the Minnesota State High School League has provided sport specific COVID-19 safety guidance to member schools in order to assist them in operating competitive sports in the safest possible manner. The links below detail the measures we’ve been taking throughout the fall season thus far, and will continue to implement as we move forward.

Winter season will begin over the course of November with Dance (Nov 9); Boys Hockey, Boys Basketball (Nov 23); and Boys Swimming & Diving, Nordic Ski, Alpine Ski, Girls Hockey and Wrestling (Nov 30); Girls Basketball and Gymnastics (Dec 7).

Look for more information regarding middle school activities from Discovery Middle School.

Please help us keep our schools safe and open by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands. Please complete the daily screening tool before school each day and keep children home if they are exhibiting symptoms. Please also continue to utilize our COVID Information Center, covid@alexschools.org, or 762-3345 for support. All of us play a part in preventing community spread of COVID-19.

I want to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Board of Education, to thank each of you for the support and partnership you have provided. Your efforts and support are genuinely appreciated, especially during this difficult time.

Be well,

Rick Sansted, Superintendent

families.