June 15, 2021

ISD 31 Community,

The 2021-22 school year at Bemidji Area Schools is approaching quickly.  Last year was a very challenging year, yet it was also very successful in a number of ways.  As a district, we succeeded in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in our schools and facilities.  We were also successful in keeping our students in school for the majority of the year because of the strategies developed and implemented by members of the school district, students and parents.  Our community’s support, resilience and commitment to health and safety were significant contributors to our success last year.

We are in the process of revising and refining the district’s Safe Return to In-Person Learning Plan for the 2021-22 school year, as required under the ESSER III guidelines for federal grant funding.  As was the case last year, communication will continue to be a strong focus throughout the 2020-21 school year.  As part of our communications strategy, we encourage parents and community members to contact us with any concerns or questions during the year.

At this point, we do not believe that masks will be mandated as the 2021-22 school year begins, but we will be ready to make changes if health authorities adjust guidelines throughout the year.  We will keep you apprised of any updates as we receive them.

While last year was a very challenging experience, we need to recognize that we not only survived the year, but we rose to the occasion and succeeded in many areas.  We learned from our struggles and came away with many unique ideas that came from creative thinking and collaboration. We weathered the storm and are stronger today because of it.  I believe that one of the rewards of persevering through the pandemic is a stronger sense of community.  We will continue to work together to make Bemidji Area Schools the best we can be. 

Thank you to the amazing staff of ISD 31 and to the students, parents, and community of Bemidji for the many successes of the 2020-2021 school year!

With Respect,

Tim Lutz

Superintendent, Bemidji Area Schools

Bemidji Area Schools

Safe Return to School Learning Plan

June 2021

The following information is a summary of how Bemidji Area School District plans a safe return to in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year. The goal of Bemidji Area Schools is to reopen school buildings for in-person instruction this fall while prioritizing the the health, safety, and wellness of students, staff, and community members.

Plan Goals:

1. Safety of students and staff

2. Prioritize in-person learning

3. Recover from learning loss due to the pandemic

Timely and clear communication to students and families will be a strategic goal for the 2021-2022 school year. Messaging to families will be relayed using various media channels according to the district Communications Plan.  For district-wide announcements, we will utilize our mass messaging system, Skylert, as well as email and snail mail.  In addition, the district will communicate by using district and school websites, mass media, and social media platforms as necessary.  Individual schools will also use familiar platforms and apps to communicate with parents as well as text messages and voice phone calls. Therefore, it is important that school offices have current and active phone numbers for each family at all times. We ask that all parents/guardians provide their children’s schools with current phone numbers for emergency contact purposes.

The district’s Safe Return to In-Person Learning Plan will be reviewed and revised as necessary when changes to CDC and Public Health guidance occur. The District encourages input from the public on provisions in this plan and regarding any considerations or revisions. Comments can be submitted on the district website at: https://www.bemidji.k12.mn.us/.

2021-2022 Safe Return to In-Person Learning Plan Bemidji Area Schools

Vaccinations

  • Vaccinations will not be required in order for students to attend face-to-face learning in the fall.  We encourage families with concerns to take the necessary precautions while attending school and to communicate concerns with us.

Face Coverings

  • At this point, we do NOT anticipate that vaccinated individuals will be required to wear face coverings.  However, masks are recommended for all staff and students who have not been fully vaccinated while inside district schools and facilities.  Until further notice, all students riding on buses are required by the Minnesota Department of Education to wear face coverings.
    • Each school will have disposable masks on hand for emergency use.
    • Students and staff may choose to supply their own face coverings provided they meet COVID safety guidelines.
    • Face masks should cover the nose and mouth and fit snugly against the sides of the face. 

Health & Safety Protocols

The following procedures are applicable for in-person learning situations and will be implemented to protect the health and safety of students, staff and the community.

Learning Options

  • Our intention is that all students will return to face-to-face learning in the fall for the 2021-22 school year.

Reporting Symptoms and Exposure

As we move into the 2021-22 school year, vigilance will be required to monitor the signs of COVID-19 in the school district and in the community.

Following are protocols for assessing individual health situations:

  • Parents are responsible for reporting any symptoms their students may have, as soon as they occur. 
  • Minnesota Department of Health quarantine guidelines must be followed.
  • School staff will monitor students throughout the school day, and report any symptoms to school administrators and/or nurses.
  • Any staff member or student experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 will be sent home and must follow all guidelines provided by the Minnesota Department of Health and the school district.
  • Symptoms of COVID-19 include the following (a checklist is enclosed from the Minnesota Department of Health):
    • Fever of 100.4 or greater, or chills
    • A cough
    • Shortness of breath
    • Abnormal fatigue
    • A muscle or body ache
    • A headache
    • A new loss of taste or smell
    • A sore throat
    • Diarrhea
  • Other resources will be provided as they become available through local health resources and MDH.

Visitors

  • At this point, visitors to schools and district facilities will continue to be limited until further notice. 

Bus Transportation

  • Face coverings will be required on buses until further notice.
  • Students are required to remain in their assigned seats during the entire route.
  • No eating or drinking is allowed while on a bus.
  • Students are restricted to their assigned routes only.
  • Parents/guardians will be responsible for alternative transportation arrangements.

Food Service

  • All breakfasts and lunches will be served and eaten in main cafeteria areas.
  • Students are welcome to bring their own lunches if they prefer.

The School Day

  • Students will have assigned seats facing the same direction.
  • Students will be encouraged to use hand sanitizer upon entry into classrooms.
    • Hand sanitizer will be available in all classrooms, as well as other areas throughout the school.
  • Students will be encouraged to wash hands throughout the day for a minimum of 20 seconds with warm water and soap.
  • Students are encouraged to bring water bottles to use throughout the day. 
  • Student groups will follow staggered times for bathrooms breaks, recesses, and lunches to reduce congregating of students.
  • Physical education will take place outside whenever possible.

Cleaning

  • Cleaning and sanitation will continue to take place frequently throughout the day.
  • Frequently-touched surfaces will be sanitized frequently.
  • Rooms will be cleaned and disinfected daily.

Facility Alterations  Physical changes will be made to facilities to provide safety mitigation.

  • In-Door Air Quality – Maintaining high volumes of fresh air exchange to maximum levels.
  • Signage related to health & safety will continue to be posted in schools.
    • Symptoms of illness, social distance and hand washing signage will remain prevalent throughout buildings.

Student Support and Engagement

  • Community Partnership: ISD 31 will work with all available local, county and state resources to provide a wide range of services to our students and families.
  • Specialized Services: Bemidji Area Schools will focus on ensuring the needs of all students are met.
    • Referral to services
    • Providing support when and where it has been identified as a need
    • Evaluating outcomes
  • Crisis Prevention and Response: ISD 31 staff will provide a wide net of resources to help with a variety of student, family and community needs.
  • COMMUNICATION: Ongoing communication from the school to staff and families will remain a high priority throughout the planning stages and implementation of our Safe Return to In-Person Learning Plan.

As we move closer to the start of the 2021-22 school year, we recognize the importance of communicating with staff, students, parents and communities.  We will continue to communicate as we move forward toward 100% face to face learning.  We appreciate working with students and families and look forward to continuing to build that relationship.