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FHS students return to school

FAIRMONT — On Tuesday, the Fairmont School Board heard the district’s plan for students’ return to in-person school. Elementary students will return on Monday, Jan. 18 full-time in-person, and high school students will begin on the same day in a hybrid model.

Elementary co-principal, Andy Traetow, pointed out that this week marks 10 months of COVID-19 and distance learning for schools. He said since June alone there have been six changes and updates to the state’s learning plan.

“One of the things we will be implementing is a new schedule to provide time for staff and support for all of our learners on all platforms,” Traetow said. “This was in accordance with executive order 20-94.”

Special education staff, EL support staff, and academic support teams have been planning for assessments to administer when students are in-person to help them quickly and accurately gauge where students are at in their learning progress.

Traetow said that last week they began working with families to prepare students for their return into the school building.

It was been nine weeks since students have fully been in the building. Reacclimatization will be needed and teachers and staff are preparing for that.

“Ten months ago when we started on this journey that was really foreign to us, the amount of growth and development that’s taken place in the adults within our district has been monumental,” Traetow said. “It’s really impressive, the work that they have done.”

High school students will start in a hybrid model on Monday and will remain in this model for a minimum of two weeks. Half of the high school student body will attend in-person school on Monday and Tuesday and the other half will attend school in person on Thursday and Friday. All high school students will do distance learning on Wednesday.

High school co-principal, Kim Niss, said that she and co-principal Alex Schmidt have focused on several areas during the return plan: communication with staff, students and parents; reviewing safety procedures and precautions; and learning.

Niss said the high school recently received confirmation from the Minnesota Department of Education that the return to Hybrid was approved. Since then, the staff was emailed and a dialer was sent to families informing them of the plan.

“As for safety plans, we’ve been working with different teams in terms of what went well and what needs to be changed and tweaked,” Niss said. For the most part, the precautions and safety procedures that were in place at the street of the year seemed to be working very well.”

Niss said they continue to learn how to teach from a distance learning perspective. She said they’re looking at all of the pieces to support students and if they’re as effective as they can be.

The school district will review COVID-19 cases in the community, as well as among students and staff over the coming weeks before a recommendation is made on all high school students returning to school in person full-time on Feb. 1.

Board member Julie Laue asked why the high school is starting in a hybrid model, whereas the elementary can start in person.

Superintendent Joe Brown explained that several factors went into the decision, which was made in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Education and Department of Health. Part of it is that there have already been hundreds of elementary students in the building for daycare services for tier one parents. Brown said they thought it was vital to get all E-6 students back.

Traetow added that Governor Tim Walz’s address on Dec. 16 also prioritized the return of all elementary students to the school building and when that announcement was made, elementary administrators began planning.

In other news, The Minnesota Department of Education has given the school district approval to go ahead with its proposed vocations center project. The special election for a $6.73 million bond referendum is set for Feb. 9.

As this was the first board meeting of the new year, returning board members Julie Laue, Dan Brookens and Nicole Green took their oath of office.

Rufus Rodriguez was unanimously re-elected as board president. Green was unanimously re-elected as vice president. Mari Myren will serve as clerk and Julie Laue will serve as treasurer.

In other action, the board accepted the following donations:

— $500 from Grace Lutheran Church for the CER Adult Literacy Program.

— $13,854 from Fairmont Athletic Booster Club for various athletic items.

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