Planning without a plan

School district awaits word on what back-to -school might look like

Tracy Area Supt. Chad Anderson summed up this year’s back-to-school plans very succinctly in a letter to parents and school district staff this week: “It’s like building an airplane in mid-air.”

With those words, Anderson and his team will forge ahead as much as they can with planning on the upcoming school year, despite not having any direction from the State on what this fall will look like. He said the letter he sent out Monday at least provides a framework of what is going on and what may or may not lie ahead.

“I know a lot of people are anxiously awaiting more information, and I figured giving them what I can right now will at least help them out,” Anderson said Monday.

Anderson, who is well aware that whatever decision is made will not satisfy everyone, said the results of a recent parent survey speak to the community’s desire to get kids back in the classroom. He added that most people to whom he has spoken with want school to resume as normally as possible.

“In America, we all have different opinions — from politics, to COVID, to return-to-work — and quite honestly those opinions are usually split right down the middle,” said Anderson. “That’s fine and I understand and respect that, as long as everybody knows as we move forward because of that, there’s not one plan that’s going to make 100% of everyone happy or at ease. The survey, so far, it’s well over 90% that are saying if we have school they will be sending their kids back. That’s what board members are hearing as well.”

The direction every school district in the state is looking for on a learning model moving forward won’t come until next week, when Gov. Tim Walz is expected to relay statewide guidelines on going back to school. What those guidelines will look like — will there be local control, will it be a one-size-fits-all proposal — is, right now, anybody’s guess.

In his letter (which can be seen in its entirety on Page 5) sent out Monday, Anderson acknowledged that decisions made next week will have a direct effect on everyone in the community — parents, grandparents, teachers, school staff, churches and businesses included. He also said he has received an array of opinions on how schools should proceed with reopening in September.

As of now, there are three options that could be utilized this fall: a complete return to in-person classes that adheres to Minnesota Department of Health safety guidelines, a hybrid model where strict social distancing again will be in play in the school and on buses, and a return to distance learning, such as schools practiced this spring. The first two scenarios would also include an option for virtual learning for parents who don’t feel comfortable sending their child(ren) back to a schoolroom setting.

Anderson said preparing for the unknown has been a monumental task but is hoping a one-size-fits-all scenario is not pursued.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.