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All elementary schools to move to distance learning on Nov. 23

Dear parents and caregivers:

This message contains important information about a change in learning models for all District 279 elementary schools.

The school board has approved my recommendation to move all students, pre-kindergarten through grade 5, to distance learning effective Monday, Nov. 23. This affects all students in all programs at every elementary school and our early childhood centers.

The rapid increase in virus activity in the communities served by our district is alarming and has now reached a critical level. The move to Distance Learning for our elementary schools, joining our secondary schools that moved to Distance Learning on Nov. 9, is based on the Minnesota Safe Learning Plan and the strong recommendation by the Minnesota Dept. of Education, Minnesota Dept. of Health, and Hennepin County Public Health. In addition, high numbers of staff absences have created significant concern about having enough staff at school to provide instruction while maintaining health and safety protocols (especially group size and social distancing requirements). In short, when we don’t have enough staff in our buildings to teach and supervise students and to maintain health and safety measures, it’s not safe to hold in-person learning. In fact, the staffing concern at Garden City Elementary is so urgent that Garden City will move to distance learning effective immediately.

On a personal note, I want to share my disappointment that we must take this action. I know children love being in school with their peers. I know our staff prefer in-person interactions that support strong teacher/student relationships. I know many children learn better when they are in a physical classroom with their teacher.

At the same time, it is clear to me that it is not safe to bring children to school for in-person learning when I can’t be confident we’ll have enough staff on site to serve them. My goal every day is that students and staff will have a safe and healthy learning and work environment, and I regret that the coronavirus is having such a significant impact on our ability to achieve that goal.

Thank you for everything you are doing to support your child and our school staff during these difficult times.

Respectfully,

Cory McIntyre
Superintendent