Roughly a third of Polk County Schools students have opted to begin the 2020-2021 school year learning remotely, the Polk County Board of Education learned Monday night.
During the board’s regular monthly meeting, held at Stearns Education Center, Polk County Schools Superintendent Aaron Greene updated the board on how the district has fared in the first three weeks of a school year impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
At present, 66 percent of students are taking part in in-person learning, with 28 percent of students opting for remote learning and six percent joining the district’s new Wolverine Academy. The district’s four elementary schools, which are able to offer in-person learning every day, have seen a slightly larger percentage of students attending in-person, with most at or above 70 percent.
Overall enrollment for the district is up three students from last year and stands at 2,080 students, not including preschool children.
Greene noted that students and teachers have done very well in complying with safety and health protocols, and expressed his appreciation for the work done by administrators and staff in preparing for students to return safely. Though there have been some students and staff who have been quarantined due to being a close contact of someone testing positive for Covid-19, the district is not aware of any current spread or active clusters of cases in schools at this time.
Greene reminded the board that a classroom, program, school or entire system may still have to be shut down on short notice if an outbreak occurs. He also commented on the district’s strong relationship with the Polk County Health Department and expressed his appreciation for their ongoing help in sharing information and tracking cases.
Assistant Superintendent Dave Scherping reported on the district’s work to provide devices and internet access via hotspots. He communicated that even with these efforts, many students in the county still do not have and will not have reliable internet access, which impacts their ability to connect with teachers and classrooms virtually. Student and teacher feedback about remote learning, with both positive comments and areas in need of improvement, was shared with board members.
Greene mentioned the significant effort being given by the district’s educators to serve students in all settings, and he shared results from recent teacher surveys regarding what they need most in the way of support. The primary areas of concern of educators related to the need for time in planning for instruction and working with remote students.
Greene publicly offered his appreciation for the district’s educators and the entire community for their support in getting kids back in school. He finished the update with a brief discussion of bus transportation status and the potential expansion of physical education and athletic activity.
In other items at the meeting:
• Scherping provided information on recent child nutrition efforts, including the district’s ongoing meal provision to families in the community with children 18 and under in their household. Via a program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Polk County Schools is providing meal pickup service each weekday from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at any elementary school in Polk County. Families receive lunch as well as a breakfast for the following day. Free meal distribution will be provided each weekday through December 31, 2020.
• PEAK After school Director Linley Foster provided an update on how the program has progressed during the first three weeks of school.
• Curriculum and Instruction Director Ronette Dill presented a review of AIG Summer Seminars and an update on Read to Achieve for the 2020-2021 year.