Eden Prairie 7th to 12th graders are headed back to in-person learning March 22, according to a notice posted Feb. 23 on the district’s web site.
Superintendent Josh Swanson kept the promise he made at the Feb. 22 school board meeting to make an announcement within a couple of days. He did it within 24 hours.
The return coincides with the beginning of the school year’s fourth academic term. Students will be in school each day Monday through Thursday. Friday will be a virtual learning day.
In order to prepare classrooms and schools for the transition, there is no school for secondary students on March 18. That includes students in grades 7-12 in EP Online.
Preparation had already begun
The district began looking at the latest transition after Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced last week that secondary students in the state can begin returning safely to in-person learning.
Eden Prairie secondary students had already returned to the district hybrid model earlier this month after having been in online learning since last November.
Swanson said the district has made it a point to look for natural breaks when implementing transitions since COVID-19 forced dramatic changes to learning models since March 2020.
He reminded the board and online meeting viewers that there are a lot of moving pieces to deal with. One of them is gearing up school cafeterias, he said.
“We need to make sure we have food on hand,” he said. “It takes several weeks to get food physically here.” Some staffing issues also need to be resolved, he said.
EP teacher vaccination numbers not known
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced earlier this month that teacher vaccinations were not required for a safe return to in-person learning.
Last week, Walz reported that the COVID-19 transmission rate among educators who have returned to the classroom is less than 1%, which, in part, prompted his recent announcement.
Eden Prairie teachers began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in mid January but the district is not tracking how many have received them, according to Brett Johnson, senior director of communications and community relations
The district received 537 doses the last two weeks of January when they were allocated to districts specifically. Since then, educators have been signing up and scheduling vaccinations directly with providers.
More than 45,000 out of 250,000 Minnesota teachers, school staff and childcare workers had been vaccinated through mid February, according to Walz.
EP Online is option; safety procedures continue
In announcing the latest transition, the district acknowledged that some families have become comfortable with the current hybrid learning model and may not be comfortable returning to full-time, in-person learning. Those families have the option of enrolling in EP Online, the statement said.
Safety procedures that have been in effect all year will continue.
- Students are required to wear a face covering at all times.
- Social distance standards will follow the state’s updated Safe Learning Plan.
- Lunch procedures are being reviewed and updated to align with new state guidance.
- Schedules will allow for hand washing and regular access to hand sanitizer.
- Staff are required to wear both a face covering and face shield.