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GFW board approves schedule changes

GIBBON WINTHROP — By a 4-1 vote Tuesday at an emergency meeting, the Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) school board approved a resolution to shift to distance learning for grades 9-12 as of Monday, Dec. 7.

Action came on a motion by board member Becky Vos, seconded by Marisa Lee that will keep K-8 students in school each day. Board member Mike Kuehn cast a dissenting vote.

Paraprofessionals will join K-8 teachers as classes will be divided in half.

The resolution included a Wednesday, Dec. 30, board meeting to revisit the subject.

Kuehn favored an A day, B day model, alternating in-school and distance learning days for grades 9-12.

“Teacher contact is important. Having it every two days is better than distance learning,” Kuehn said. “If they’re out full-time, it’ll only get worse. Kids will be running around with other kids, not following (COVID-19) guidelines.”

So far this school year, all GFW students have been in school daily.

Superintendent Jeff Horton presented the board with five class scheduling options including keeping all kids in school each day, doing distance learning for all students, keeping K-5 students in school daily and dividing classes in half, keeping K-5 students in Gibbon daily and 6-8 students in Winthrop daily with distance learning for 9-12 students and alternating in-school and distance learning.

Superintendent Jeff Horton said the local (community COVID-19) positivity test rate is 17%.

“Our school is seeing large amounts of quarantining (isolating those who may have come in contact with COVID-19),” said Horton. “On Tuesday (Dec. 1) 43% of our seniors are out (of school), 24% of our juniors, 22% of our sophomores, and 30% of our freshmen are out.”

Horton said GFW has more distance learning and quarantining with high school students.

“We need to make an adjustment. We need to turn back the dial,” said Horton.

Horton said food will be delivered to students doing distance learning.

Horton said all board members had valid points about the subject.

“It’s best to do high school distance learning until we get more control over this (COVID-19),” said high school principal Brittany Galetka.

“I look at this as a proactive move. We’re seeing wide community (COVID-19) spread,” said Horton.

Several board members voiced interest in bringing students back to school soon.

Horton said he would work closely with a regional support team to help make that happen when the time is right. He said he has found the regional support team very helpful.

Board member Jason Haas mentioned the importance of focusing on kids earning credits, passing classes and keeping their grades up during distance learning.

As many as 186 people watched the board meeting on YouTube.

GFW Schools emailed a press release shortly after the meeting. It read:

GFW Schools continue to provide a safe and caring environment for staff and students. Current active cases of COVID 19 remain in the single digits within our schools.

Despite these low numbers, other data points indicate that we need to make some changes to support the safety of our entire community.

Starting on December 7th, 2020, GFW Public Schools will move students in grades 9-12 to distance learning.

The Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education guidance allows some students to continue in-person learning during the distance learning period.

GFW Public Schools will utilize its multi-tiered system of support teams to identify students who will have the option to continue in-person learning on a part-time or full-time basis. Students in PreK-8th grade will continue in-person following hybrid guidelines with additional social distancing and safety procedures which will include dividing each class in half during the day.

GFW Public Schools believes in-person learning best meets the educational needs of students. At the end of December, the GFW School Board will review its learning models to determine potential changes.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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