Cloquet school officials updated the school Monday, Aug. 10 on some logistical issues they're working through as they prepare for the upcoming school year

The Minnesota Department of Education directed schools to plan for one of three possible scenarios for opening in the fall: All students in school; a hybrid model that allows for up to 50% of students to be in school at one time as long as there is space for social distancing; or distance learning.

The school districts are required to follow guidelines set by MDE and the Minnesota Department of Health. The guidelines let them know what model is appropriate according to local numbers of people infected with COVID-19.

Superintendent Michael Cary said that as long as there are 0-9 cases of COVID-19 in the county, schools can open fully. He said the numbers are currently at 5.91 in Carlton County, slightly higher than last week.

“It’s a balancing act,” Cary said.

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Part of the planning meant officials needed to define which grade levels are elementary and secondary so parents and staff understand which grades are affected by which learning model. There are different criteria for students based on their grade level and the model used. In Cloquet, kindergarten through fourth grade students are in the elementary school buildings; fifth through eighth grade students attend the middle school; and students in grades nine through 12 are in high school.

Cary said he talked to an MDE official, who agreed grades kindergarten through sixth grade are elementary school and grades seven through 12 are secondary.

The grades are already split, Cary said. Grades five and six are contained on the second floor of the middle school and grades seven and eight are on the first floor, so there is no intermingling with the middle school grades.

Elementary students need more direct support from teachers. Cary said the district will staff teachers for in-class learning as well as have separate classrooms staffed for students who will be utilizing the distance learning model from home.

Cary said he will let parents know how to sign up for distance learning at the Monday, Aug. 24 meeting.

“It’s going to be another unusual year,” Cary said.

They are currently discussing the possibility of secondary teachers streaming lectures and recording them.

Another challenge is preventing intermingling between students before and after school, Cary said. Students will be required to go straight to their classrooms and stay in their spaces for the majority of the day. If students leave to get lunch, they will bring it back to the classroom. Teachers will escort the students to and from gym and art classes, Cary said. He added that school officials are still working out the details.

Board member Hawk (Gary) Huard asked who will make sure kids keep their masks on during the bus rides to and from school.

“You can't see those little guys in the seats,” Huard said. “They might take off their mask and nobody knows.”

Cary replied that they will need to rely on other students telling the bus driver.

Another safety plan officials may implement is using eight of the buses to exclusively pick up kindergarten through sixth grade students and the other buses to pick up the secondary students. Cary said the school district is still working with Cloquet Transit Company to work out the details.

Board member Nate Sandman asked how many masks will be provided by the state and when the school district will receive them.

Cary said MDE and MDH will provide 6,000 masks for staff and students. They will be distributed sometime during the week of Aug. 30.