Pausing the Transition to Blended Learning and Shifting Back to Distance Learning

Rising Cases of COVID-19

Last week the Minnesota Department of Health’s (MDH) official numbers for positive case rate per 10,000 residents reached 31 in Ramsey County. That figure is a lagging rate and represents the level of virus spread as of Oct. 17. Knowing that our transition plan called for bringing students in grades 4 – 6 into blended learning on November 9, we have taken a close look at the numbers. 

The director of graduate studies at the Division of Biostatistics at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health created a tool (Minnesota School Opening Statistics) for school districts that provides a more timely look at the data. This tool gives us a preview of where the official state rates are headed. As of November 2, Ramsey County is experiencing 40.1 positive cases per 10,000 residents. The tool also allows us to target our view to only the ZIP codes that serve our school district, showing a rate of 39.7 positive cases per 10,000 residents as of Oct. 29.

Most troublingly, the tool projects that on November 9 we will be at 50.8 cases per 10,000 residents in Ramsey County. This is more than three times the rate of COVID-19 infections in our community compared to when we announced our staged transition plan in September. 

This would mean that fourth, fifth and sixth graders would only be in the building for a matter of days before we would have to seriously consider shifting back to distance learning for all students.

Pausing our Transition Plan

Recognizing the immense stress on families of uncertainty and learning model transitions, we've made the difficult decision to take the following steps:

  • We are pausing next week's transition to blended learning for students in fourth, fifth and sixth grade. Students in grades 4 - 6 will continue full-time distance learning.
  • We will transition students in ECSE, pre-K, and kindergarten through third grade to full-time distance learning beginning Monday, November 16. 
  • All students receiving in-person special education and English language development services will receive all services remotely beginning November 16.
  • The planned transition of students in grades seven through 12 to blended learning at the start of Trimester 2 is increasingly in doubt, but not yet off the table. 

We continue to work with the regional support team of experts from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) who are providing guidance and consultation to schools across the state. If case rates take a turn in the opposite direction, we will remain flexible in our plans.

Please remember that students may switch from blended learning to distance learning at any time. Please contact your school directly if you wish to make a change to your learning model at a time that differs from the dates above. 

I know that this will be a frustrating decision for many families, and may place hardships on our community members who are already dealing with unprecedented challenges during this time. But we believe it is necessary in order to protect the health and safety of our students, families and staff.  

Please watch for additional information from your students' schools in the coming days. Thank you for your incredible patience and understanding as we work through this pandemic together.