Updated: August 06, 2020 07:20 PM
Created: August 06, 2020 06:11 PM
As the start of school nears, so too does decision time come into play for many school districts.
"In all, there have been about 500 people involved in the planning efforts of our back to school options," said Katie Becker, chair of the Minnetonka School Board.
The board has a five-hour meeting scheduled Thursday night to discuss the district's seven possible learning options for the upcoming school year.
"There's one option that is full in-school, one option that is distance, and five hybrid options," explained Becker.
Minnetonka parent Jennifer Pelstring is hoping for at least some in-person learning.
"I think it's important to get them back in school for their long-term social-emotional needs," she said.
Each school district is creating a distance academy, or online option, for students unable to or uncomfortable with returning to the classroom.
In the South Washington County School District, families were told about theirs this week and asked to have their decision made by midnight Thursday, given just two days to decide.
Enrollment means there's no switching until the trimester break.
"I think that's our current confusion. The district is asking us to pick distance learning only or to go with what the school district is asking us to do, and we don't know what that's going to look like," said parent Bonnie Slaughter, who said she does think the district is doing its best for students. "There's a lot of details that haven't been figured out yet, so parents are scared."
Minneapolis and St. Paul have already chosen to start the school year via distance learning. Anoka-Hennepin is surveying families, hoping for a hybrid start. Lakeville and Eden Prairie districts plan to make decisions next week, with some districts like Buffalo-Hanover-Montrose waiting until late August to make the call.
In Stillwater, the school board will discuss options Thursday night as well and is looking toward a hybrid start, but already the district has pushed back its school start date by a week to give teachers more professional development days on the front end of the school year to prepare for what's to come.
Despite the research and planning, education experts say these decisions aren't easy.
"It's incredibly difficult because we're committed to make the best decision for our staff and our students," Becker said.
She said the district is listening, stating they have received 400 to 500 emails from parents in the last week.
"I'm very confident we're going to get the information to make the decision. I'm hopeful that we're going to come to a decision this evening because I know our staff and our families are really looking for that decision in order to move forward for what that fall plan is going to be," she added.
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