Recommendations vs. Requirements in Learning Models

Posted by Hermantown School Board on 3/1/2021 8:00:00 AM

Confused about why some schools are in person 4 or 5 days a week while others are hybrid? There are many factors at play. Here we will break down Governor Walz’s updated learning plan and what that means for Hermantown schools. The learning plan has requirements and recommendations. These are defined by the Minnesota Department of Health as


Required health practices must be implemented by all Minnesota public schools. These practices are foundational to minimizing the risks of exposure to COVID-19 for students, staff, and families. These practices are considered the minimum level of implementation, and schools may not be less restrictive. These include mask procedures, monitoring for illness, isolation and a plan for exclusion and return.


Recommended health practices are additional strategies that schools may choose to use to minimize the spread of COVID-19. MDH and MDE recognize there are diverse learning environments that will require teams to use thoughtful strategies when applying guidance to meet the health and safety needs of all students and staff. Not all recommended practices will be possible in all settings, and therefore should be tailored as appropriate.”


Hermantown Schools are currently operating in compliance with all required MDE and health practices and MDE requirements. However, remaining compliant is one of the obstacles in returning to 5 days per week at the elementary school and 4 days per week at the middle and high schools. 


A key area of confusion is social distancing. At the elementary level it is recommended that students and staff maintain 3 feet of social distance; however at the middle and high school levels it is required that 3 feet of space is maintained. With our current class sizes at the middle and high schools, we cannot meet this requirement. Only if the St. Louis County numbers for the 14 day case range drop below 10 does the requirement of 3 feet then become a recommendation of 3 feet. 


All schools must offer students the option to distance learn throughout the 2020-21 school year. Currently we have 10-25% of students at the different schools choosing this option. All schools have been using Monday as a day to prepare for and meet with distance learners. The state requires that teachers are given additional prep time when teaching two modalities. 


As shifts between learning models are made, we must keep in mind legal requirements for meeting students’ IEP and 504 accommodation plans. This is non-negotiable.


The School Board and Superintendent continuously look for ways to plan for a return to 5 days a week at all schools. We have discussed and will continue to discuss options for hiring more teachers and staff, being creative with the spaces we have, compensation for prep time, the impact on social and emotional health of students and staff, among others, all the while complying with MDH and MDE requirements. Most of all we remain vigilant in offering the best education possible to all students amidst a pandemic and thank everyone for the feedback and support.


For Further Reference:

Link to the State Guide for Schools

Link to the St. Louis County COVID Dashboard