ISD 31 Families,

As we began the 2020-2021 school year under an elementary in-person learning model and a secondary hybrid model, it was our hope that we would be able to maintain these models and not have to move into distance learning.  Our hope was that COVID-19 numbers in the county would stay low and allow us to maintain our models or even to return to full in-person learning at the secondary level.  Unfortunately, COVID-19 numbers have continued to rise in Beltrami County.

Because our school staff members and students have done a wonderful job of following the guidelines from the CDC and MDH, we have been able to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our schools.  By maintaining these strategies, we have kept our students and staff safe, and we have maintained our learning models as long as possible. To date, we still have not had any spread or outbreak in any school.  However, throughout our community and county, our numbers have been increasing at an alarming rate.

During the course of the school year, we have ben utilizing multiple data points to make decisions regarding our learning models and whether or not to continue or change these models.  These metrics have included:

  • 14-day rolling day averages for the county;
  • Geographic data about the spread of COVID-19 in the area;
  • Demographic data around age groups with positive cases (how many school-aged children have COVID-19);
  • Whether or not community spread is occurring in our school buildings;
  • The number of school district employees who are unable to perform their duties due to contracting COVID-19 or needing to quarantine after close contact with someone who is positive for COVID-19;
  • Whether school is still a safe place for students to learn and employees to work.

Over the course of the last few months, district leaders have been tracking these data points and sharing them at school board meetings.  We have also shared this data with the NW Minnesota COVID Regional Response Team over the course of three meetings where we have been told that what we are doing in our schools is continuing to work. However, since our last meeting with the Regional Response Team, COVID numbers have risen dramatically in the county.  As a result, ISD administrators have determined that it is now time to phase into a shift of learning models in the district.   As the numbers of COVID increase in our county, especially among older students who move around our community more than younger students, we want to be proactive and move into distance learning in order to help slow the spread of the virus.

What does this shift mean for your children’s schools?  The answer depends on whether your child(ren) attends an elementary school or a secondary school.  The first phase of the model switch will be a move to distance learning for grades 6 through 12 immediately after Thanksgiving.  Students at the middle and high schools are well prepared to make the switch to virtual learning.  All elementary schools will continue operating with the In-Person model at this time.  Please read the following information very carefully so that you know what will happen over the next few weeks.

Secondary Schools (Bemidji Middle and Bemidji High Schools):

The last day of hybrid learning will be this Friday, November 20.  From Monday, November 23rd through Wednesday, November 25th, teachers at the middle and high schools will be working to transition into the distance learning model.  Students in grades 6 through 12 will not have school on those days.

After Thanksgiving break, on Monday, November 30th, students will begin their distance learning model and begin learning virtually.  Once students are in the distance learning model, the school week will return to five days of learning.  Wednesday will NO LONGER be a workday for teachers, but will be a learning day for students.  

The middle and high schools will work hard to provide textbooks, and materials to each student so that each student will have what they need to learn remotely.  Each school will contact families with details about picking up these materials.

Elementary Schools:

There will be no model change in elementary schools at this time.  Since the number of elementary students in the county who are contracting COVID-19 is extremely low and elementary schools are still very safe places to learn and work, we will continue allowing elementary students to attend school in person during December.  

However, we will begin making plans to transition elementary schools to the distance learning model beginning on Monday, January 4th, 2021.  This means that, between Monday, November 30th and Friday, December 18th, all elementary students will continue their in-person learning at all elementary schools.  Beginning on Monday, December 21st through Wednesday, December 23rd, teachers will begin working to transition into the distance learning model.  No students should report to school on these days.  Child care services will be provided for the children of essential workers starting on December 21st and throughout the duration of Distance Learning.

Please note:  As the district moves toward a distance learning model for elementary students, we are aware that COVID numbers could improve in Beltrami County.  If numbers should improve before the start of the new year, the district could make an announcement that will reverse the plan to move elementary schools into a distance learning model.  However, in order to allow plenty of time for teachers to prepare and for families to locate childcare services, we must move forward with planning for virtual learning beginning on January 4th.  

Please watch for more updates from the district and from your children’s schools about implications for extra-curricular activities, childcare services, and other factors that may be pertinent.