Eagle Update: Planning for Middle School education
Welcoming students and staff back to New Ulm Middle School this fall was unlike any previous school year. After many months away from the school building, students and staff were anxious to return to school where they could reconnect with one another and resume teaching and learning in the traditional school environment.
Prior to the start of the school year, New Ulm Middle School staff worked together to develop three learning plans designed to meet the needs of all students in different scenarios outlined by the Minnesota Department of Education. In developing the plans, the staff focused on maintaining the key components of the middle school model, while also following the guidance outlined in the state’s Safe Learning Plan.
With the cornerstones of the middle school program intact, New Ulm Middle School began the school year with a student orientation designed to teach students the expectations associated with the new safety protocols and school routines. Each student at New Ulm Middle School has been assigned to a cohort of students who share the same learning space throughout the school day. Rather than students moving from class to class, teachers move to the student learning spaces to reduce student interaction across cohorts. During orientation, advisors of each cohort spent time engaging students in community building activities and trained them in the school safety protocols including wearing masks appropriately, handwashing, and social distancing. Students have responded well to the safety protocols and are positively reinforced with Eagle Pride tickets and classroom rewards for following expectations.
In addition to in-person learners, New Ulm Middle School also has several students who have opted into Individual Distance Learning. Students participating in Individual Distance Learning are placed into a cohort of distance learners and follow a daily schedule of virtual instruction. The 1:1 technology initiative implemented last school year has been an essential component to distance learning and technology integration in and out of the classroom.
The collective effort of the New Ulm Middle School staff to safely reopen school has been outstanding. Teachers have worked together to solve problems, address student issues and redesign learning experiences to meet safety guidelines. Despite the challenges they face, New Ulm Middle School staff value having face to face interaction with students and are committed to keeping students safe while providing a high quality middle-level education.