August 15, 2020

Stevens County Times

Your spot for community news in Stevens County, Minnesota

Rules unfair that treat all schools the same

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Every month, I attend school board meetings in three area communities – Morris, Hancock, and Herman. The school districts have many similarities but also several differences. They each have their own issues and concerns, but also face the same struggles.

One of the big challenges each of these school districts is facing right now is abiding by the Minnesota Department of Education regulations regarding learning and how the districts can do this. In some ways, it seems so unfair for smaller schools such as those in rural areas, to have to abide by the same regulations as the larger, metro schools.

For example, Herman-Norcross averages about 7-10 students per class. They could easily have the entire class in a classroom, each seated six feet apart. Hancock and Morris Area average 20-22 students per classroom. If the gathering limits go up to 25, they too could handle the regulations inside the classroom. These smaller schools could stagger break times and lunchtimes to discourage large groups in one area.

I have heard that the majority of students did okay with distance learning but there were a few who struggled. If the MDE decides on what they term as 

a ‘hybrid’ approach, it would mean that some of the students would be in the classroom while others would be distance learning. I can’t imagine the headaches this would cause with bussing, teaching logistics, and subjects such as phy ed, art, and music. The other two scenarios would be all in the classroom or all distance learning. Teachers are being asked to prepare for each of these scenarios.

I am not sure what will work the best but I think it should be left up to the school districts, as long as they abide by CDC and MDH guidelines. I know it would be very difficult to keep elementary-age children from hugging, touching, playing closely together, or anything that involves space. They simply are not good at “keeping their distance.” However, high school students would do a good job at that and probably would welcome it in some situations. 

We have also heard that children do not get the disease like adults do but can be 

‘carriers.’ While it would hurt me greatly to not be able to hug or even talk to my grandchildren, perhaps it should be left up to the parents and grandparents to prevent the spread from the children. Grandparents already get a lot of illnesses from their grandchildren such as colds and influenza. They know what to do to prevent that from happening.

Another concern I have heard during these meetings is how to handle it if MDE does allow students to return to the classroom but a teacher, staff member, or even parents of a student who does not feel safe being in the classroom setting. How would these scenarios be handled in order to work for everyone?

The answers are varied and not easy to arrive at in a way to work for everyone. Once again, I believe that the individual districts are best suited to make that decision knowing the circumstances in their own setting. 

Katie Erdman