Cloquet Senior High School students can expect to see a change to their distance learning schedules in the near future. The Cloquet School Board approved an asynchronous learning day every week at the request of majority of the staff.

Currently the school has five days of synchronous learning, meaning students log in and go through their normal class schedule as they would if they were attending in school. They switch from classes at set times, similar to the typical in-person schedule.

However, Cloquet Senior High School Principal Steve Battaglia said they're starting to see gaps in learning and an uptick in failure rates.

"We're seeing 30% higher failure rates at the midterm," Battaglia said. "That's going to have a long-term effect on graduation rates and our students' future success."

Battaglia said he talked with other principals across the area and state and said it seems to be a systemic issue that they're seeing across the board. In fact, Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order last week that "strongly discourages" schools from requiring teachers to teach students in-person and remotely at the same time, synchronously.

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"It will be one day a week where there will still be assignments posted, but it will give kids a chance to work at their own pace and give teachers time to do interventions with kids who are struggling," Battaglia said. "They'll be available for office hours, re-teaching, and test make-up."

Battaglia said that the addition of one asynchronous day is supported by 90% of the teaching staff at the high school. Teachers would still be required to come into their classrooms and have the extra contact time.

Superintendent Michael Cary supported the idea.

"I think there are some little things to schooling that we take for granted, like kids being able to talk to each other and ask questions of each other while working on homework," Cary said. "That doesn't happen when the child is isolated by themselves at home, so this extra support with more flexibility, I think, is a smart idea and makes a lot of sense."

The school board voted unanimously to add an asynchronous day to the learning schedule. It's expected to be Wednesdays.

Sports and extracurriculars expected to continue for now

Cary also addressed questions about winter sports and extracurricular activities and whether they'll continue now that the district is switching to distance learning.

"We haven't seen the spread from person-to-person in the schools, so we felt we could continue to let our extracurriculars operate for the time being," Cary said. "But if we start to see that person-to-person transmission, I think that would change the narrative very fast."

Cary said it's fairly easy to shut down a sports team that has had exposure to COVID-19 without upsetting other activities or having a drastic impact.