WORTHINGTON – In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Worthington’s ISD 518 School Board voted Thursday to push the start date of the 2020-2021 school year back to September 8.
Pushing the start date back a week will give the district extra time to work out the details of the hybrid learning plan, which will include some in-person classes for students and some distance learning.
The current working plan would have students in grades K-4 going to Prairie Elementary two days a week, with three days each week of distance learning. Middle and high school students will attend in-person classes one day a week, with four days each week of distance learning.
Wednesdays will be set aside for what Superintendent John Landgaard referred to as an intervention day to assist students who are struggling. That day will also be used for staff to prepare lessons and for cleaning and disinfecting the facilities.
Some students in specialized programs may have support available to them on additional days.
Landgaard said the preliminary plan still has many details to be worked out, and it is not perfect. The goal, he added, is to keep pushing the plan toward perfect.
The district’s intention is to have students from the same household attending in-person classes on the same days and to split the classes into groups of similar size as evenly as possible.
During Thursday’s meeting, Landgaard told board members that he does have a rough estimate of how many teachers and staff do not want to come back to the classroom during the pandemic. He did not reveal that number, but said they are working through each case individually, as the people involved have unique and specific reasons. Those who prefer to work from home for medical reasons will have to have a doctor’s note, Landgaard said, adding that age is not a single qualified reason to stay home.
One large issue still being worked out is how to handle transportation. According to Landgaard, school buses will be at about 50 percent capacity. Meals are another challenge the district is facing. The plan is for meals to be distributed throughout the community using the designated distribution sites.
A full Return to Education Plan is scheduled to be released August 14. New teachers are still scheduled to report August 17, all other teachers August 24 and paraprofessionals August 31.