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RPS announces hybrid learning plan for most elementary students, distance learning for secondary

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Rochester Public Schools has announced its plan for classes to resume in the fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On July 30, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced that state officials would work with individual school districts to help each district determine how students should return to school in the fall. The districts could determine which of three possible learning models worked best for them: in-person learning, distance learning or a hybrid model.

"This plan was created in the best interest of the health and safety of our students and staff, and we are prepared to implement this base learning model following School Board approval," RPS Superintendent Michael Muñoz said in a letter to parents, students and district staff members.

Pending School Board approval, RPS said most elementary students, (Pre-K through grade 5) and Lincoln students (Kindergarten through grade 8) will receive face-to-face instruction two days per week, and distance learning three days per week. RPS said this will allow half of the students to be on campus at a time "to maximize social distancing." Schools will be dismissed about an hour early to allow teachers to connect with students who aren't in-person.

Most secondary students (grades 6 through 12) will have distance learning five days per week, RPS said. The district said there will be opportunities for secondary students to get in-person support by appointment in areas including academics, technology and mental health.

Some students in special programs, such as Intensive Special Education and Project SEARCH, will attend school on a custom schedule based on their individual needs and the District's ability to keep staff and students safe, RPS said.

One of the main reasons for these two models has a lot to do with social distancing guidelines.

"The biggest thing for me was I really believe that it's much easier for us to get our elementary students to really adhere to the social distancing and restrictions that go with that hybrid model," Muñoz said.

RPS said students may also choose to participate in distance learning full-time if they are medically vulnerable or unwilling to return to school in the hybrid model. Families are being asked to make this choice by Thursday, Aug. 13.

"We will re-evaluate this every six weeks and make adjustments as needed," RPS said. "If conditions worsen, the learning models may change before announcement of the next phase."

Muñoz also stressed that while this is the plan now, there is an advisory team with health and school officials that will meet every two weeks to monitor the situation.

"This is our plan we're hoping by M.E.A to make an announcement if we need to make adjustments. But we also put a statement in there that if our cases really skyrocket, we may have to switch elementary to online before M.E.A weekend," Muñoz said.

Muñoz said the plan will be discussed in greater detail during the School Board Special Session on Monday.

Read the full announcement from RPS here.

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Nicole Valinote

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