Rhonda Silence

ISD 166 continues return-to-school planning with regular and special meetings

School District 166 has a lot on its plate with planning for the 2020-2021 school year. The school board held a special meeting Tuesday, July 28, the first in-person meeting in months because of concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting was held in the timber frame outdoor classroom adjacent to the Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School parking lot. Participants sat six feet or more apart and masks were worn throughout the meeting.

School Board Chair Dan Shirley led the meeting, which was billed as a work session, to consider several things–plans for returning to school, school policy revisions and communications, and the proposed school “Justice for All” initiative. However, the update on the return to school took up most of the meeting.
The school board acknowledged that there is still a lot that is unknown as School District 166 is looking for guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education and Governor Tim Walz. Governor Walz is expected to make an announcement with the state’s recommendations Thursday, July 30.

Despite that, there was some in-depth discussion of the three possible scenarios for when students return to school in the fall. The scenarios are continued distance learning; a combination of distance learning and in-school studies; or a full return to school.

Principal Megan Myers provided the results of surveys that had been sent out to student families and posted on the school website, seeking feedback on how comfortable parents are with sending their children back to school–and in what manner.

Principal Myers noted that the survey, which had 135 responses, didn’t show a clear cut preference from families. Continued distance learning or a return to students being back in the school building were nearly the same. She said school staff continues to meet and are looking for a solution that will benefit the most children. Myers said it is very difficult as she wants to see students back in school, but she also wants everyone to be safe.

Between the July 16 regular school board meeting and the July 28 special meeting, WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke to Superintendent Dr. Bill Crandall about the planning that has been taking place.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence also spoke with Superintendent Bill Crandall on some other school district matters, such as the school’s contract with the Grand Marais Playhouse for use of space in the Arrowhead Center for the Arts.