DELANO, MN – Delano students in grades seven through 12 will shift to full-time distance learning Monday, Nov. 30, according to Delano Public Schools Communications Coordinator Paul Downer.
“We have done our best to maximize in-person learning to the extent we safely can this school year, but the time has now come for us to make a change for our older students,” Downer wrote in an email to district parents.
He said the change is necessary due to staffing shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and associated quarantines.
“Our intention is to continue distance learning until the week of Jan. 11, when we will re-evaluate our high school learning model,” Downer wrote.
The Delano School Board will take official action on the learning model change during a special meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19.
At this point, the district is not making any further learning model changes for younger students. The district had announced Nov. 11 that those students would shift to four in-person school days with distance learning on Wednesdays, and the school board approved that change Friday.
In addition to not having classes Nov. 25-27 due to Thanksgiving, secondary students will also be off Monday, Nov. 23, and Tuesday, Nov. 24, to allow staff members to plan and prepare for the transition.
DHS Principal Barry Voight will send more information soon regarding the transition and to clarify expectations for students on these days.
“Although a Minnesota Department of Health representative said last week that we did not yet need to make a learning model change because the number of actual cases in our schools remains low, one of the thresholds she identified as a transition point was an inability to sustain regular operations due to staff absences caused by COVID cases and quarantines,” Downer wrote. “With recent changes to the number of staff members we have available, in addition to the increasing number of local and county cases, the time has come for Delano High School to change to a learning model that is less vulnerable to disruption caused by physical absences.”
The shift will also free up substitutes and support staff for the elementary and intermediate schools to allow those schools to continue to operate primarily in person. This has been a common practice for districts throughout the area and state.
“As mentioned above, public health officials have informed us that it is safe to continue in-person learning at the PreK-6 level because our school-related cases remain low, and because quarantines and other mitigation measures have so far prevented the transmission of the virus from occurring within our school facilities,” Downer wrote. “Had staffing not become a factor, we would have also been able to continue hybrid learning in the high school, per our last consultation meeting.”
While secondary students will not be in school, they will continue to have opportunities to participate in athletics and other activities.
“The district will continue to monitor the status of our activities and will provide more information in the near future,” Downer concluded.