Dr. Matt Hillmann, Superintendent of Northfield Public Schools told KDHL today at Professional Pride Realty in Northfield all kids may not be able to be back in the buildings this fall.  Hillmann says under current guidelines from the State Department of Health and State Department of Education it can't happen.

He explained, "The current CDC (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines would allow for 13 students to be transported on a 77 passenger bus.  You don't need to have taken calculus to know that doesn't work.  Even if we have a great transportation partner that is very creative like we have in Benjamin Bus.  Our local vendor here, even if they ran every bus route twice that would mean we could get 650 kids transported to campus."

The Northfield school district has approximately 4,000 students.  Hillmann adds, "That's not insurmountable.  We're working through a number of different things trying to solve that problem."  He suggested some students would be at home distance learning one week while other students are physically at school and then they would rotate as a possiblity.

Another issue he says is screening students for COVID-19 symptoms before coming to school each day.  "How does that look?  Can parents help us affirm that they don't have a temperature or new onset cough or other symptoms?"

The Northfield Public Schools Superintendent says this has been anything but a normal summer for him and administrators in the district.  "We all want kids back in school.  Everybody wants kids back in school.  These are some of the problems we are trying to solve."

Hillman adds, "We also have people who cannot come back.  Both staff and students. For a variety of reasons that we all totally understand.  We're also trying to honor those folks."

"In mid-June the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education provided us with three scenarios to prepare for.  In-person learning without strict social distancing.  We need to be prepared to do some kind of hybrid option which every school district could do a little bit differently, where some students would be on campus learning and some students off campus learning.  That could be a rotation.  It could be a number of different ways."

Hillman says, "The third option is a true distance learning option which I would call distance learning 2.0.  While I'm proud of the efforts, and we've had a lot of positive feedback from our families about the abrupt shift to distance learning (at the end of last school year).  We were well prepared for it.  We've had iPad (devices) for our students for years.  Every student grades 3 through 12.  We then had one iPad for every two students in kindergarten through second grade."

All students K-12 will have an iPad device in the upcoming school year.

He told us Northfield is fortunate that 98 percent of the families in the school district did have internet services so they only had to hook up 65 students so they could participate in distance learning.

"We also know," Hillmann added, "there are some things we could do better and we are working on that before the fall."

Hillmann says the state has told school districts they will more than likely be in all three of the scenarios at some point during the school year.  In the hybrid scenario he told us Northfield has come up with 5 different versions of that in an effort to determine what might work best.

LET’S PLAY A GAME: Can You Answer These Minnesota Jeopardy! Questions?


More From KDHL Radio