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School board reviews distant learning plan

NEW ULM — The District 88 School Board reviewed plans for educating students during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Superintendent Jeff Bertrang gave an update on the distant learning plan for the school district.

Implementation of the distance learning plan will begin, Monday, March 30. Bertrang said distance learning is having access to appropriate education materials and having daily interaction with the licensed teachers.

Each District 88 building has a different plan based on the age of the students being served. The plans were designed to balance online instruction with physical materials. The school will have procedures for dropping off and picking up materials.

Washington and Jefferson will use SeeSaw as the online learning management system. This will be the primary driver for these students. The middle school and high school will continue to use Google Classroom.

Alternate options will be used for students without access to technology. Drop off sites will be organized on Tuesday and Thursday for communities outside New Ulm. Parents can still come to school sites for information.

“A lot more communication has to happen with the parent on this,” Bertrang said. There will need a big investment in communication between the parents and the school.

The schools will also be checking in with students who are most vulnerable or need support. This will mean phone calls to check in with the student’s family.

Assessments will be different in each building. Washington and Jefferson will create a pass/fail process for the year based on work completed.

Middle School and High School will continue with quizzes and tests for assessment. Final grading process could be changed over the next month as needed.

Some of the high school courses will need to change the outcome and delivery. Internship and work experiences will need to be modified.

New Ulm staff will take attendance daily and if students are not reporting in, counselors will reach out to the students to determine the obstacle.

Meals will continue to be distributed as before. Building kitchens will prepare to-go bags with meals and breakfast food for the next day. Students in the daycare program are eligible for the program. The sites putting out the meal will be open for an hour. As of Thursday, 740 meals have been served.

Daycare is open for Tier 1 critical workers. Tier 1 includes healthcare workers, law enforcement, food and agriculture, judicial branch, national guard, education and childcare providers. The district day had 57 students on Thursday, but is expected to grow.

Bertrang said Monday will be a slow start for the school. The first goal will be to re-establish connections with students and family. He said some kids have been out of school since spring break. There is also concern the online classes will cause a surge in bandwidth. In addition to all the students going online, parents are also working from home.

“We just have to take it slow,” Bertrang said.

If there is a bandwidth problem for some of the students, the school will call and try to make other arrangements. The school might cut video requirements to lower bandwidth use.

The distance learning plan and links to health related information are on the school website.

The distance learning plan will be out to all student households by the end of Friday. This will give out what is expected for Monday. Parents can call the school or check the school website for this information.

The next school board meeting will be 6 p.m.Thursday, April 23, in the District Board room. Due to the ongoing state of emergency, the board members can attend through teleconference or electronic means. One board member is required to attend the meeting in person.

The April study session was postponed.

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