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New Ulm shifts to distance learning Nov. 30

NEW ULM — New Ulm Schools will shift to distance learning for all grades starting Monday, Nov. 30, Superintendent Jeff Bertrang told parents on Tuesday.

To make this a successful transition, there will be no school on Nov. 23 and 24, said Bertrang. These will be transitional planning days to allow staff time to complete the plans for the switch to distance learning.

“We are not able to properly staff our buildings for in-person learning and need to switch to a model where we can sustain learning, daycare and meals. This means there is no school for students Thanksgiving Week,” Bertrang told the parents.

“Our plan is to provide two weeks of distance learning (Nov. 30 to Dec. 11) and monitor the health conditions within our community and our ability to properly staff our buildings and programs,” further explained Bertrang. “If the data shows that that we can return, we will most likely start in a hybrid model where students come two days for in-person learning and two days at-home learning as we socially distance (spread out to meet 6 foot distances) all students in our buildings,” said Bertrang.

“The ability to return to school for any in-person instruction is up to the community,” he added.

“Our staff have been amazing in working with students and parents over the past eleven weeks, making sure our students were getting a high quality education in the classroom or at home. This switch isn’t our desired plan, but it is necessary for the health of our staff and students. No matter the learning plan, we will continue to provide the learning and support services necessary for each student to succeed,” said Bertrang.

Once the transition planning is complete, each building will provide students and families with updated plans that will start on Nov. 30, added Bertrang.

Bertrang also updated parents on child care, meals and athletics.

Childcare

Schools are required to provide free school-aged child care during regular school hours for critical workers when in hybrid or distance learning, Bertrang recapped. The child care is for district-enrolled students from Pre-K to age 12.

The district will use criteria to determine eligibility for care, said Bertrang. “We do need to prioritize what we can safely staff in our buildings,” he told parents.

The criteria are as follows:

1. Family approved for free/reduced lunch and you work away from home.

2. You are an employee of New Ulm Allina Health and meet the criteria of working away from home.

3. New Ulm Public Schools employee who needs childcare.

4. You are a first responder and working away from home.

5. You are a single parent with no other daycare options and working away from home.

“We do not have the staff or space to hold child care for all of our students,” said Bertrang. “We are required to socially distance students in rooms and assign staff to support each pod (pods are limited to 15).

According an executive order by Gov. Tim Walz, “the school-age care for children of critical workers is intended for extreme circumstances in which no parent or guardian is at home, as all of the parents or legal guardians in the child’s household are Tier I critical workers. If it is a two-parent household and one is not a critical worker, a school is not required to provide free school-age care to the family, but the school could choose to provide the care, if they have the capacity to do so while ensuring health and safety requirements can still be met. School districts and charter schools may also encourage parents or legal guardians of eligible children to not utilize the school-age care program if they have the ability to work from home.”

This free child care is during the school hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., said Bertrang. If critical worker families need care beyond these hours, they can opt for morning or afternoon care (fee for service). We must have a minimum of ten children enrolled in order to run morning and afternoon care. The district will offer child care on Nov. 23 and 24 and start up again on Nov. 30. Anyone with questions regarding child care can contact Stef Dietz at 507-233-6191.

Meals

The food service department will continue to provide meals for students during the distance learning phase, said Bertrang. The district is asking families to complete a form that will help staff with planning for the types of meals to make and how many.

Meals are provided free to children up to age 18 and can be picked up at a designated school site between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Families who qualify for school-aged child care are able to sign up for daily meals at the school site they will attend for child care. Anyone with questions regarding school meals may contact Teri Jespersen at 507-233-6186.

Athletics/activities:

The district will continue to follow executive orders, the Minnesota Department of Health directives and the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) expectations regarding activities, said Bertrang.

“It is our intent to follow state directives and continue with activities, until we are directed otherwise. We fully expect the governor and MSHSL to publish updated guidance regarding fall and winter sports Wednesday. The change to distance learning isn’t about student transmission in our buildings, but the effect the community transmission has on our staff for in-person classes,” he added.

“Thank you to our families for what you have done and will continue to do as we move forward. We are all working together during these difficult and stressful times,” he said in conclusion.

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