Duluth Superintendent Recommends In-Person Learning for Elementary, Hybrid for Secondary

Recommendation subject to change before school year begins September 8th

DULUTH, Minn. – The Duluth School District’s new superintendent, John Magas, has presented his education strategy for the fall.

In his plan, elementary students would return in-person and middle and high school students would return in a hybrid manner, with each student walking through school doors for in-person classes one day per week.

“Making this more safe quite often means there are limitations that make learning and instruction more challenging to deliver,” said Magas in Tuesday’s school board meeting. “So trying to find the right balance based on our current situation as well as the needs of our students and the safety of our students and staff is really, really important to us.”

Magas said his recommendation is based on COVID-19 case numbers in St. Louis County.

Right now, in a two-week span, there are less than 10 COVID cases per 10,000 people in the county.

According to the state of Minnesota’s guidelines, that is low enough to recommend that all students return in-person. However, Magas said county-wide data doesn’t tell the whole story about the Duluth School District.

“Duluth area being more of a metro area has a greater number of people living closer together and the infection rates are considerably higher in the Duluth area,” he explained.

Magas is recommending elementary students return in-person because he says they benefit more from learning in the classroom. He also says it appears that younger kids are less likely to contract and spread the virus.

Middle and high school students would return in a hybrid manner because, according to Magas, they can better engage with distance-learning platforms.

Each middle school and high school student would go to class on either Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday, with all students learning from home on Wednesday.

But all this is subject to change as virus numbers could be different when the school year starts.

“This is the latest version of where we’re at, but again, situations change, information changes, and we have to always be ready to press pause and consider whether we need to reset and reflect and move forward,” Magas said.

More than 5,800 Duluth families responded to a recent survey about their expectations for this school year.

63 percent of families who responded said they intend to send their students to some kind of in-person or hybrid learning, and five percent of families said they did not intend to send their students physically back to school.

For students going back, school won’t be exactly the same as before the pandemic. The district will require masks, maintain social distance between students and staff, and have strict hygiene protocols in place.

If COVID-19 numbers rise in St. Louis County, the school district could choose to have all students do distance learning again. They say, if that happens, it will be a better version of distance learning than what was provided this spring.

The school year is scheduled to start September 8th.

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