Bemidji Area Schools

Safe Return to School Learning Plan

REVISED: August 26, 2021

The following information is a summary of how Bemidji Area School District plans a safe return to in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year. The goal of Bemidji Area Schools is to reopen school buildings for in-person instruction this fall while prioritizing 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

Communication

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.

Review and Revision

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. With students, families, and K-12 educators preparing for the start of the 2021-22 school year amid concerns about an uptick in COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant, health and education officials are recommending that schools follow CDC’s guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools this fall. These best practice recommendations reflect the current state of the pandemic as well as the importance of in-person learning.

State Officials Recommend CDC School COVID-19 Guidance

With students, families, and K-12 educators preparing for the start of the 2021-2022 school year amid concerns about an uptick in COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant, health and education officials are commending that schools follow CDC’s guidance for COVID-19 prevention in K-12 schools this fall.  These best practice recommendations reflect the current state of the pandemic as well as the importance of in-person learning.

Prevention Strategies:  All staff, students, and visitors within Independent School District No. 31 buildings, regardless of vaccination status, are recommended to follow the strategies of physical distancing, handwashing and respiratory etiquette, cleaning and disinfection, contact tracing, screening testing, and staying home when sick as defined in the “CDC Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools” and implementation of the shortened quarantine period as outlined by MDH Quarantine Guidance.

  • All people ages 12 years and older should get vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to in-person school, sports, or other activities to protect themselves and people around them who cannot get vaccinated.
  • All staff, students, and visitors within Independent School District No. 31 buildings must wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, as specified in the “CDC Guidance for COVID-19 Prevention in K-12 Schools.”
  • Students, teachers, and staff should stay home if they have signs of any infectious illness, and should contact their health care provider for testing and care.
  • Students, teachers, and staff who have been fully vaccinated do not need to stay home if they have had recent close contact with a confirmed case so long as they remain asymptomatic and do not test positive.  Follow CDC testing guidance for anyone exposed to a confirmed case.
  • People who are not fully vaccinated and returning to in-person school, sports, or extracurricular activities (and their families) should get tested regularly for COVID-19 according to CDC guidelines.
  • Schools will continue rapid and thorough contact tracing in combination with isolation and quarantine, handwashing, respiratory etiquette, cleaning, and disinfection as important layers of prevention to keep schools safe.
  • All eligible people are encouragedto become fully vaccinated so that we will be able to keep schools open for in-person learning.

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 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:

  • All students and staff are asked to conduct a daily self-screening and stay home if necessary. This is considered a good general health practice.
  • 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

  • Schools will not allow visitors during the school day.

Bus Transportation

  • Face coverings are required on all public transportation, for all passengers and drivers, per federal mandate.
  • 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

  • Bemidji Area Schools will review CDC, MDH, and MDE guidance regarding face covering requirements for K-12 schools.  Bemidji Area Schools will review and adjust the face covering requirements as guidance changes or local data requires.
  • 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.
  • Drinking fountain access may be limited based on guidelines from MDH.  Bottle-filling stations will be accessible. Students are encouraged to bring refillable 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.

Appropriate Accommodations

Appropriate accommodations for children with disabilities with respect to health and safety policies have been provided.  To learn more, parents/guardians should contact his/her child’s case manager.

Vaccinations

Vaccination information provided by the Centers for Disease Control, Minnesota Department of Health and local public health will be communicated to families. 

All people ages 12 years and older should get vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to in-person school, sports, or other activities to protect themselves and people around them who cannot get vaccinated.

Students and employees who have been fully vaccinated do not need to stay home even if they have had recent close contact with a confirmed case so long as they remain asymptomatic and do not test positive.

Cleaning

Infection control practices are being implemented, including routine cleaning and disinfecting of work surfaces, equipment, tools and machinery, delivery vehicles and areas in the school environment, including restrooms, break rooms, lunch rooms, meeting rooms, and drop-off and pick-up locations.  Frequent cleaning and disinfecting will be conducted in high-touch areas. 

  • 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 – The maximum amount of fresh air is being brought into the workplace, air recirculation is being limited and ventilation systems are being properly used and maintained.
  • 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.

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.