Private as well as public schools in the region are responding to the growing COVID-19 crisis with closures and making plans to educate students online.
Gov. Tim Walz’s order to issue an order closing all public schools in the state from March 18-27 may be only the beginning, a state health official hinted during a media conference Sunday afternoon.
“Much of the data suggest that if you would have to close schools and have it make an impact … those closures would be eight to 20 weeks in length,” said Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease division director with the Minnesota Department of Health. “So this is not a situation in which you would say, ‘Oh, we’re going to close for two days and everything will be fine.’ It’s long term, and it requires thoughtful planning.”
In a statement released Sunday, the Duluth school district said it plans to do just that. The schools will remain open this Monday and Tuesday, communications officer Katie Kaufman said in a statement. During the March 18-27 closure, teachers, staff and administrators will be able to prepare for longer-term closures, she said. That will include “plans for distance learning, distribution of school meals and continuation of essential services.”
Duluth Edison Charter Schools also will have classes Monday and Tuesday before the state-ordered closure begins, Head of School Bonnie Jorgenson said in a statement to families. Attendance isn’t required, she wrote, but parents planning to keep their children home on Monday and Tuesday should report that to the school’s attendance line.
However, children who are sick or who are at increased risk because of a medical condition should be kept at home, Jorgenson said.
Staff will be “working on distance-learning plans” during the closure, she said.
Duluth Catholic schools also will be observing the March 18-27 closure. In a letter to parents Sunday afternoon, Stella Maris Academy President Hilaire Hauer wrote that its campuses will be open Monday and Tuesday "to support those families who need care for their children." Absences will be excused, she wrote, and children must be healthy to attend.
"Distancing of students and heightened hygiene protocols will be in place," Hauer wrote.
She added that parents should make plans to care for their children even beyond March 27.
But privately run Marshall School is taking a different approach, closing on Monday and Tuesday and beginning its own “distance learning” on Wednesday, according to its website.
Faculty are to report to the school Monday for a “professional day,” Head of School Kevin Breen said in the posting. The building will be open, but it hadn’t been determined if students would be able to access it.
Tuesday plans aren’t finalized, Breen said, but online classes will begin no later than 10 a.m. Wednesday. The school set up a web page devoted to COVID-19 issues.
Among other area schools:
- Harbor City International School will be closed Monday, Executive Director Tim Tydlacka said in a letter on the school's Facebook page. Instructions regarding Tuesday will be emailed to families on Monday. The school will be closed, per Walz's order, March 18-27.
- Fond Du Lac Ojibwe School announced it will follow the plan announced by Walz over the next two weeks. The school is working on a plan to continue providing lunch to students.
- Queen of Peace Catholic School in Cloquet will be closed March 18-27, principal David Douglas said.
- Maranatha Academy in Superior is closed. Classes will resume online only on March 30.
- Lakeview Christian Academy will be in an "at-home format" from March 18 through at least March 27, Head of School Aaron Walls wrote in an email to families on Sunday. Regularly scheduled classes will take place Monday and Tuesday, but families were asked to keep children at home if they are sick, if family members are sick, or if they or family members have recently traveled internationally.
This story was updated at 6:58 p.m. March 15 with additional information from more schools. It was originally posted at 1:53 p.m.
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