School might change models

Parents encouraged to plan for distance learning

by Nick Wognum
Ely school officials are sending signals that additional distance learning may be coming soon.
For a third consecutive week, the school district will maintain a hybrid model of education for students in grades 6-12 while elementary students will go to school each day.
That was confirmed at a Thursday meeting of the district’s safe learning plan advisory council, but administrators indicated they could soon be recommending changes - including one that would presumably end everyday, in-person learning in the elementary.
Elementary principal Anne Oelke spoke of challenges related to keeping young children six feet apart, as well as those faced by faculty who simultaneously teach those in their classrooms and others who have opted for distance learning.
The same day, Oelke emailed elementary parents, saying “In the event that the Washington Elementary needs to go into the Distance Learning Model, I strongly encourage families to start planning about what that may look like for your family and how to prepare for child care.”
The developments come amid conflicting data points.
The district no longer has any active cases of COVID-19 among students and staff, down from a high of four a week earlier.
And among residents of the 55731 zip code, only two new cases of COVID-19 were added between Sept. 23 and Sept. 30, according to the county’s COVID-19 Dashboard.
Yet in Greater St. Louis County, the data point used by the district to determine learning models, biweekly cases per 10,000 jumped rom 11.37 to 14.74.
Should that number reach 20, the district would consider an education model calling for hybird learning in both the elementary and high school buildings, according to the district's "restart blueprint."
In hybrid education, students attend classes two days per week and get distance learning for three. Ely utilizes an approach in the high school with one group attending Mondays and Tuesdays, another on Thursdays and Fridays, with all students getting distance learning on Wednesdays.
Some area school districts, including neighboring St. Louis County District 2142, have opted to continue with in-person learning despite the jump in cases.
The school adopted a “restart” plan in late-August that includes numerous safety procedures and protocols, including mandatory face coverings indoors, staggered arrival times and adoption of a cohort model in the high school to segregate groups of students.
Ely school officials have also acknowledged COVID-19-related concerns and say the district has taken additional steps beyond those that are required, including daily temperature checks, to provide for a safe environment.