Schools in Itasca County Provide Update on Fall Learning Plans

School Leaders in Itasca County Provide Update on District Plans for Back-to-School Learning Amid COVID-19

ITASCA COUNTY, Minn. – On Thursday, Superintendents from multiple school districts in Itasca County provided an update on back-to-school plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz recently announced a statewide decision to leave reopening plans up to district officials based on current COVID-19 data per county.

Independent School District 318 (Bigfork and Grand Rapids)

Based on current COVID-19 data, Superintendent Matt Gross said Thursday ISD 318 will push forward come fall with in-person learning for all grades.

Gross says it’s up to the community to help keep cases down so schools can resume some sort of normalcy. This requires all members of the community to continue wearing masks in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Gross is urging the community to remove the political element when it comes to masking up.

ISD 318 will implement changes to lunch schedules, bus protocols, traffic flow in buildings among other safety measures.

Masks will be required for all students.

After the school board approves the preliminary plan at an August 6 meeting, parents will have until August 16 to register students.

Independent School District 316 (Greenway Public Schools)

Greenway Public Schools Superintendent David Pace is recommending to the school board that all students begin the school year with in-person learning.

The decision comes amid recent COVID-19 data for the county.

The plan will be presented to the school board on August 12.

ISD 316 will require masks to be worn, implement changes to lunch schedules, and install partitions where it’s difficult for students to social distance in classrooms.

Pace says if a student shows symptoms, it’s strongly recommended the students stay home from school and receive the proper testing if need be.

If COVID-19 cases were to climb rapidly in Itasca County, Pace would consider moving to a hybrid model as the school year progresses.

Independent School District 319 (Nashwauk-Keewatin Public Schools)

Nashwauk-Keewatin Schools Superintendent Brenda Spartz says the district is currently working on their “Restart Blueprint” for fall education.

Superintendent Spartz has recommended based on COVID-19 data for Itasca County that students return in the fall for in-person learning.

There would be an option for students to take part in “Remote Classroom,” taking into consideration those who have underlying health conditions.

Families would also be given the option to distance learn if they don’t feel safe with the in-person option.

Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School 

Administrator Dan McKeon says his facility will be moving forward with an online model of education when students return in the fall.

This plan will come with in-person support.

Each week, roughly 30-60 students would be in the building if they require more direct learning, need tutoring services, or other support that can’t be obtained through distance learning.

Buses will run each morning for food delivery and would return with a small number of students who require more in-person support.

Many of the students at Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig live with individuals who are at high risk of contracting COVID-19, backing up McKeon’s decision to implement an online learning plan.

Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig school collected data from the spring semester, finding roughly 50 percent of students didn’t have access to the internet for distance learning.

Officials are working to make sure this is fixed by the time school resumes in the fall.

Independent School District 317 (Deer River Independent School District)

Superintendent Jeff Pesta says he is recommending schools to reopen in the fall based on a hybrid learning option.

The plan is called the “Warrior Online Option.”

The School Board plans to meet August 10 to vote on the plan.

Based on current COVID-19 data, Pesta believes this would be the best option for students in the fall.

He says it’s also up to the community to do their part in making sure students can return safely to school by wearing masks and practicing social distance guidelines implemented by the state.

Itasca County reports 135 cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday, August 6. Cases range in individuals from 6-months-old to 94-years-old. 

Click here for additional COVID-19 information from Itasca County Public Health.


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