Update on elementary return to in-person learning

Good afternoon families,

Last week, the Minnesota Department of Education and Governor Walz introduced new guidance for when and how schools could return to in-person learning. Based on that guidance, we are planning the following changes for our schools, students and staff:

Elementary Schools
Elementary students will remain in distance learning when they come back from Winter Break on January 4, but they will return to in-person learning on the following phased schedule:

  • Jan. 13 & 14 - Grades K-2 Transition Days - Grades K-2 students will not be in school or in distance learning (Grades 3-5 will remain in Distance Learning on those days)

  • Jan. 15 - No School Day for K-5 students (previously scheduled)

  • Jan. 18 - No School Day for all students (previously scheduled)

  • Tuesday, January 19th - Grades K-2 students return to in-person learning (Grades 3-5 will remain in Distance Learning)

  • Jan. 27 & 28 - Grades 3-5 Transition Days - Grades 3-5 students will not be in school or in distance learning (Grades K-2 will remain in in-person learning on those days)

  • Jan. 29 - No School Day for all students (previously scheduled)

  • Feb. 1 - Grades 3-5 students return to in-person learning 

This elementary return to school will be for full in-person learning, 5 days per week.

Elementary School Day hours will remain 9:15 a.m. - 2:40 p.m. The Extended Day Program will provide fee-based before- and after-school school-age care for any families who are looking for the option.

This phased timeline follows the earliest return dates allowed. New state guidance only allows three grade levels to return to in-person learning at one time, with a two-week delay in between. Please note that Friday, January 15 is a previously scheduled day off for K-5 students and Monday, January 18th is a previously scheduled day off for all district students.

Elementary Distance Learning Academy sign-up
Families who wish for their child to continue in the distance learning model may enroll in the new White Bear Lake Area Schools Elementary Distance Learning Academy, a fully online enrollment option for K-5 families. Students will attend school online each day and work with their teachers to complete learning activities specifically designed for their grade level. Students learn the same concepts and curriculum as their in-school counterparts but the delivery will be adapted to help students succeed in an online environment. The WBLAS Elementary Distance Learning Academy will be taught by WBLAS teachers, aligned with WBLAS curriculum and Minnesota state standards and designed to meet the same high levels of academic rigor present in traditional in-person school.

Those who wish to enroll in the district’s Elementary Distance Learning Academy are asked to complete this registration form by the end of the day Tuesday, Jan. 5. Families who register for the Elementary Distance Learning Academy will be committed to distance learning for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. Please note that opting into the WBLAS Elementary Distance Learning Academy may mean your student(s) will move to a new teacher.

Elementary Tier 1 and Fee-Based School-Age Care
Elementary Tier 1 and fee-based school-age care will not be available for Grades K-5 students during the K-2 Transition Days on Jan. 13 & 14. Tier 1 childcare will not be available for any elementary students on the previously scheduled Grades K-5 No School day on Jan. 15 or on Jan. 18, a No School day for all students.

Schedule at a glance:

  • Jan. 13-15 & 18 - school-age care is not available (this includes Tier 1 and fee-based care) for grades K-5 during Transition/No School Days

  • Starting Jan. 19 - grades K-2 will be learning in-person, grades 3-5 will be in distance learning with Tier 1/fee-based school-age care available at students’ home schools

  • Jan. 27-29 - Tier 1 will be provided for grades 3-5 during the Transition Days

  • Feb. 1 - grades 3-5 will be learning in-person

Beginning Monday, Feb. 1, when elementary students are in-person learning, Elementary Tier 1 childcare will no longer be available. Elementary Tier 1 childcare was a service mandated when the district was in hybrid and distance learning models. Fee-based school-age care will be available to all families.

The Community Services Department will provide families who are enrolled in school-age care with additional details regarding locations and daily schedules that will be followed during the phased-in approach to in-person learning as soon as information is available.

Details and registration information will be available at the Community Services 2020-21 School-Age Care Information page of the district website.

Secondary Schools
Our Secondary schools, serving Grades 6-12, will continue in distance learning for the time being, following previous state guidance that relies on the level of community spread of COVID-19, and other key data.

In early January, we will reevaluate the middle school and high school learning models based on guidance from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education as well as our local data.

Winter season youth sports, including middle school and high school athletics, will begin practices starting January 4.

Middle School Tier 1 and FLEX Middle School Program
The following schedule and changes will take effect for the Middle School Tier 1 and FLEX Middle School Program:

  • Jan. 13 - All Middle School Tier 1 and FLEX Middle School Program students will relocate to Central Middle School and will remain there for duration of distance learning period

  • Jan. 18 - No School Day, Tier 1 and FLEX Middle School Program will not be available

Additional details will be available at the Community Services 2020-21 School-Age Care Information page of the district website. 

Early Childhood
Our Early Childhood programs will continue to be delivered in their current models. 

In-Person Support Services
Students who are currently receiving in-person support services will continue receiving services in the same way they receive them now throughout both phases. Elementary students will return with their classmates to full in-person learning when scheduled.

New Safety Protocols
In addition to the timeline for a return to school, the Department of Education also released new safety protocols for students and staff learning and teaching in-person. These include:

  • Requiring masks for students at all times indoors (except while eating), including indoor Physical Education (PE) and recess. Masks will not be required during outdoor PE and recess. 

  • Requiring that students remain in their classroom for some specialist lessons depending upon the specific building facilities. Students may leave their classroom for recess and PE in a gym or outside. Additionally, guidance updated just yesterday allows for cohorts to eat lunch and breakfast in the cafeteria with social distancing in place.

  • Making on-site COVID-19 testing available every two weeks for teachers and staff who work directly with students. 

  • Requiring staff to wear both masks and face shields at all times while working in-person with students.

Thank you for your assistance in helping us successfully return to school. More than ever, we need all of us to do our best to follow MDH health and safety protocols including wearing a face covering, avoiding large crowds, practicing social distancing, staying home if experiencing symptoms, and getting a COVID-19 test if not feeling well.


Thank you,
Dr. Wayne A. Kazmierczak, Superintendent

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