Wabasso schools to start 2020-21 school year Aug. 25

Paul Hunter Zaid
The first day of school will look a lot different for students than it did in 2019.

Wabasso Public School and St. Anne’s School will begin the new school year this coming Tuesday (Aug. 25). 

As the pandemic continues to reshape the world the Wabasso School District will assist in bringing back some normalcy to the community.

On July 30, Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, along with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), announced Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 school year. 

Within the plan school districts will begin school in one of three models – in-person, distance learning or a hybrid model. Experts at the departments of health and education will partner with local school districts to help determine which learning model they should use to start the school year.

Through the Superintendent Stream on YouTube, Wade McKittrick, Wabasso Public School superintendent announced that on Aug. 6, the Wabasso Public School Board in consultation with county public health officials finalized and approved the school’s back to school resolution with a back to school plan for in-person learning for all students.

The back to school plan includes the requirement that all students Kindergarten through 12th grade, staff, faculty and community members will be required to wear a face covering unless documentation from a medical provider stating otherwise is provided.

In the stream announcement McKittrick said each student will be provided one cloth face mask by the State of Minnesota.

Also, any student riding the school bus to school also must wear a face covering. McKittrick added that if a student does not have a face covering at time of pickup, the driver will give the student a mask.

All students must enter the building wearing a face covering. Once the student enters their first class and is seated some flexibility with face coverings can begin.

For elementary students, once the student arrives into their classroom with a mask, they may choose to wear a face shield. Every elementary student will be given one face shield from the school.

The option for an elementary student to wear a face shield is due to thought that it is important for students to experience face-to-face interaction during developmental years.

Once a student participates in more involved activities, such as physical education, music and recess, a face covering may be taken off.

The school district intends to hold music and recess outside for elementary students as much as possible until weather doesn’t allow that, said McKittrick.

On the high-school side, a mask or face shield is required in the classroom. Face shields will not be provided to high-school students.

Masks are required to be worn in the hallways and all common areas.

Just like the elementary students, high-school students will be able to remove face coverings during activities where one is exerting themselves.

Large areas will hold instruction for music and choir in order to allow for physical distancing.

According to McKittrick, the school is under a state order. The school is not politicizing masks. If the mask order is not followed, the school can be shut down by public health officials. The school will not jeopardize its ability to have as many kids in the building, for in person instruction as possible.

If an individual has an underlying condition where they are exempt from the face covering policy, they are asked to speak directly with the school administration.

McKittrick invites all students and parents to ask questions regarding the back to school plan.

The Back to School plan is also posted on the school’s Web site and extensively details the school district's plan and procedures to keep faculty and students safe for the start of the school year.

Included in this plan:

Facilities protocol

● Thorough cleaning schedules will be created and implemented by facilities staff and school staff for all facilities, supplies and equipment.

● Facilities staff will deep clean the activity center once per week.

● Facilities staff will use a floor scrubber in appropriate places a minimum of twice per week.

● HVAC filters will be inspected and replaced according to filter guidelines

● Restrooms will be cleaned and sanitized a minimum of two times per school day.

● Teachers and facilities staff will ensure student desk surfaces are cleaned at the end of each school day.

● Hand sanitizer will be available in all classrooms and at sanitizer stations located throughout the school facility.

● Hand washing and/or hand sanitizing routines will be built into students’ daily schedules.

Health screening protocol

In accordance with MDH recommendations, parents are asked to perform daily screenings of their children prior to them coming to school. The following are part of the daily screening:

● Temperature check; fever of over 100.4 or feeling feverish

● Chills?

● A new cough?

● Shortness of breath?

● A new sore throat?

● New muscle aches?

● New headache?

● New loss of smell or taste?

If a student has experienced a new onset cough or shortness of breath by themselves or any two of the above symptoms, students are not to come to school, and parents are asked to follow the MDH protocol.

That protocol may be accessed on the MDH Web page or by calling (507) 637-4041 (Southwest Health and Human Services).

Arrival and dismissal

● The school building doors will be locked, and no students are allowed inside the building until 7:50 a.m. on school days.

● All students will enter the building through their grade level designated entrance.

Once entering the building students will report directly to their classrooms.

Designated entrances/exits are as follows:

● K-2 Entrance #3 (main elementary doors)

● Grades 3-4 Entrance #4 (rear elementary doors)

● Grades 5-7 Entrance #1 (main entry)

● Grades 8-9 Entrance #17 (next to Mrs. Bernardy’s room)

● Grades 10-12 Entrance #16 (main AC doors)

● No students may stay after school unless they are in a school sponsored event. Students are not permitted to wait in the commons areas, hallways, AC, etc., for an event to begin or for younger/older siblings.

•Students must leave the building at dismissal time.

● School day start times will be staggered with Grades K-6 beginning at 8 a.m. and Grades 7-12 at 8:15 a.m.

Dismissal times will be staggered:

• Grades K-2 dismissed at 2:58 p.m.

• Grades 3-6 dismissed at 3 p.m.

• Grades 7-8 dismissed at 3:04 p.m.

• Grades 9-10 dismissed at 3:02 p.m.

• Grades 11-12: dismissed at 3 p.m.

These are only a portion of the many ways the Wabasso School District and its faculty will do its best for the health and safety of students.

Also, included in the plan is Scenario 2: Hybrid Learning which is defined by the Minnesota Department of Education as the school building running at 50 percent or less of a facility’s maximum capacity as determined by the state fire marshal while adhering to strict social distancing guidelines of maintaining six feet of spacing between students at all times.

Also, there is the Scenario 3 plan of Distance Learning where students will be engaged in distance learning which includes access to educational materials and daily interaction with their instructor(s) through online platforms.

In what is sure to be a unique school year students and parents can take note that the Wabasso School District will do everything within its power to provide a safe and superior education to the district’s students.

Learn more about the new school year online at www.isd640.org/.