Latest Update from the District

  • Update on Secondary Return to Hybrid Learning

    Posted by Forest Lake Area Schools on 1/11/2021 3:00:00 PM

    Greetings families,

    In light of the consistent downward trend in local case numbers of COVID-19 and after consultation with the Minnesota Department of Health, we are excited to announce a plan for our secondary students to return to the school buildings.

    Students will return to their school buildings under the following schedule:

    • Middle School
      • Students will have no school January 25-26th to allow time for teacher planning.
      • Starting January 27th, 7th and 8th grade students will return to hybrid learning.
    • High School
      • Students will have no school January 25-26th to allow time for teacher planning.
      • Starting January 27th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students will return to hybrid learning. 
      • Starting February 8th, 9th grade students will return to hybrid learning. 

        Hybrid learning at the high school and middle school will use the same schedule we followed in the fall. Students in the maroon group will attend school in-person on Mondays and Wednesdays, learning at home on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Students in the gold group will attend school in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays, learning at home on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Regardless of where they are learning, students will participate in learning during every class every day.
         
    • Community School
      • Students will have no school January 25-26th to allow time for teacher planning.
      • January 27th - 10th, 11th and 12th grade students return to in-person learning on Monday through Thursday, with an at-home learning day on Fridays.
      • February 8th - 9th grade students return to in-person learning Monday through Thursday with an at-home learning day on Fridays.
    • STEP Program
      • Students will have no school January 25-26th to allow time for teacher planning.
      • January 27th - All STEP students return to full in-person learning Monday through Thursday with at-home learning on Friday.

    Why does 9th grade have to wait?

    Our Regional Support Team from the Minnesota Department of Health has issued a requirement that we bring back no more than three grades in each building at one time. With four grades in our high school and community school, this requirement does not allow us to bring all students back together. With increasing graduation requirements as students reach higher grades, and more multi-grade courses in the higher grades, the oldest grades were selected to return first, with 9th grade returning February 8th.

    Distance learning option still available

    For families who feel that distance learning meets their needs better than in-person learning, the option to continue distance learning is available. If your student would like to continue distance learning, OR if your student started the year in optional distance learning and would like to return to hybrid learning with their classmates, please fill out this distance learning change form by Friday, January 15th to let us know. Families who want their student to stay in the learning model they started the school year with do not need to fill out the form.

    Sincerely,

    Steve Massey,
    Superintendent

    Comments (-1)
  • Update on timeline for return to in-person learning

    Posted by Forest Lake Area Schools on 12/17/2020 9:00:00 PM

    Greetings Families,

    Yesterday, 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 return to in-person learning on the following schedule:

    Tuesday, January 19th - Pre-K, Kindergarten - 3rd grade* students return to in-person learning

    Monday, February 1st - 4th grade - 6th grade students return to in-person learning

    *this timeline was updated on 12/23 based on new information from the Minnesota Department of Health

    This timeline follows the earliest return dates allowed by new state guidance. Please note that Monday, January 18th is a scheduled day off for students.

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

    Secondary Schools
    Our Secondary schools, serving grades 7-12, will continue to follow previous state guidance that relies on the level of community spread of COVID-19, and other key data.

    Our district had planned to review the COVID-19 situation in January and make a decision prior to the end of the semester. We will continue to follow that plan, and will provide another update for secondary students at the January 21st School Board meeting.

    High School sports will begin practices only on January 4th.

    Special Circumstances
    Students who are currently receiving in-person support services will continue receiving services in the same way they receive them now, and will also return with their classmates to full in-person learning when scheduled.

    Childcare
    Distance Learning Childcare will continue to be provided for all registered participants until the time when that student is eligible to return to school. Details regarding locations and daily schedules will be provided as soon as more information is available.

    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 specialist lessons (music and media) and lunch and breakfast. Students may leave their classroom for recess and PE in a gym or outside.
    • 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.

    In order to successfully return to school, we need all of us to do our best to follow CDC health and safety protocols including wearing a face covering, avoiding large crowds, practicing social distancing, and getting a COVID-19 test if not feeling well. Thank you for the trust you have placed in Forest Lake Area Schools. 

    Sincerely, 
    Steve Massey, Superintendent

    Comments (-1)
  • Transition to Distance Learning for All

    Posted by Forest Lake Area Schools on 11/19/2020 7:00:00 PM

    Dear Families:

    Due to staffing shortages and increased disruptions in learning related to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to transition into distance learning for all grades and all schools within our district. Our 9-12th grade students are already in distance learning, and in December middle school, elementary, preschool and STEP students will also move to distance learning. The district will finish hybrid learning next week, and distance learning will begin after the Thanksgiving holiday break.

    The timeline for this transition is below:

    • Wednesday, November 25 - last day of hybrid learning
    • Monday, November 30* - Professional development day for staff, no school for students
    • Tuesday and Wednesday, December 1-2 - Transition planning days for staff. 
      • No school for preschool, elementary, middle school or STEP students. 
      • Regular distance learning day for students in grades 9-12 and Ranger Academy.
    • Thursday, December 3 - First day of distance learning
    • Friday, December 4 - Distance learning day for all students

    *This professional development day takes the place of the previously scheduled Dec. 4 professional development day.

    Distance learning will be provided to students on every school day. It will not follow a hybrid color schedule. This distance learning will continue at least through the duration of this current quarter, which ends on January 22. We will review the COVID-19 situation in January and communicate with families again as we get closer to that date.

    I know this may be a frustrating announcement for many families. We had hoped to hold on to our hybrid learning model as long as possible. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that we are not able to sustain that model in the current COVID-19 climate.

    Staffing shortages

    With increased community spread of the virus, we’ve seen an increase in the number of staff who cannot come to school due to COVID-19. These reasons could range from a positive COVID-19 diagnosis of the staff member or their family, quarantine because of close contact with someone who tested positive, or lack of child care due to a COVID-19 situation. 

    We have had a shortage in available substitute staff members all year, and with increasing staff absences, it has become increasingly challenging to cover our operations, often at a cost of consistency and quality service for our students. 

    Learning experience for students

    Just like our staff, more and more students are having prolonged and repeated absences from school due to exposure or a diagnosis of COVID-19. This has created a classroom experience that is inconsistent and challenging for students, teachers and families to manage. Distance learning will provide students with a more consistent educational experience over the next several weeks while we move through this winter surge in virus cases. 

    Child care needs

    We understand that many families will have childcare needs during this period of distance learning. More information about the District’s child care program can be found at this link.

    We had hoped to avoid widespread distance learning for students this year, especially for our youngest learners. However, the widespread prevalence of COVID-19 in our community is impacting our ability to provide in-person services to students, We’re thankful that we were able to start the school year strong, build a good foundation of learning and establish strong relationships with our students. We remain hopeful that the situation will improve early in 2021 and we will be able to bring our students back to school for a strong finish to this unusual school year.  

    Thank you for your understanding as we make this transition to distance learning. I can assure you that your child will experience a high quality distance learning experience that will include daily interactive instruction and learning with their teacher. 

    Sincerely,
    Steve Massey, Superintendent



    Comments (-1)
  • Grades 9-12 Moving to Distance Learning

    Posted by Forest Lake Area Schools on 11/12/2020 9:00:00 PM

    Dear families:

    I send you this update with the full understanding of the impact that changes to learning models have on students, families and staff. I know that you share my belief that in-person learning is best for our students and I hope that you trust that we will always balance this value with prioritizing the health and safety of our students and staff. Given the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in the counties we serve and in our local community along with the impact of COVID-19 related cases in our schools, I presented the following information to the school board this evening.

    What is changing:

    Effective immediately, High School and Community School students (grades 9-12) will change to a full distance learning model. Friday, Nov. 13 will be a distance learning day as scheduled, and Monday and Tuesday will be planning days for 9-12 staff, and non school days for 9-12 students. 

    Middle School, elementary, early childhood and STEP program students will continue in their current hybrid learning model, and continue following their school calendar. However, if the  COVID-19 situation does not improve, families of these students should be prepared for a switch to distance learning, which would likely be announced on Thursday, Dec. 3, if not sooner (see more information below under Outlook for Middle School and Elementary).

    How long will this last?

    For our 9-12 grade students, the switch to distance learning is anticipated to last through the end of the semester/2nd quarter. During that time, we will monitor the status of COVID-19 in our community and will provide new updates to families in mid-January.

    Why are we making this change?

    Our secondary schools (both the High School and Community School) have seen a dramatic increase in case numbers within the past week. A large number of students and staff are currently needing to quarantine due to exposure to someone who is positive for COVID-19. The large number of cases are significantly impacting our ability to quickly trace and exclude close contacts, and keep the remaining student and staff population safe from exposure.

    In making this decision, we have done a very detailed analysis of all available information, and you can see that analysis in tonight’s School Board presentation.

    What about sports and activities?

    Sports and activities will be allowed to continue, as long as it is safe to do so. Students’ education is continuing, so extra-curricular activities, which are important for students’ social and emotional wellbeing, will also continue. These programs are voluntary, and clustered within small groups, so safety measures are easier to implement and control. However, individual teams or activities could be put on hold if those groups experience an outbreak. 

    Outlook for Middle School and Elementary?

    At this point, we have not seen dramatic increases in cases within our elementary or middle schools, or within our early childhood and STEP programs. However, with cases rising throughout the community, it is likely that we will see increased impact of COVID-19 within these schools and programs, particularly following the Thanksgiving holiday.

    Two pathways for Elementary/Middle school students:

    Continue in hybrid and re-evaluate December 3: 

    We believe that school is the best place for most students to learn, and so we are holding on to our current hybrid learning model as long as we can safely do so. With that in mind, we will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation, particularly its impact on our individual schools. Our School Board meets on December 3, and that is the next logical time for the district to evaluate the situation and announce a shift to distance learning, if needed, with some transition time to prepare. 

    Continue in hybrid and remain flexible to make an immediate shift if necessary:

    As we monitor daily COVID-19 information, it could become apparent that a more urgent change is necessary, either because of outbreaks, viral spread within our schools or staffing shortages. Families should be prepared for the possibility of a shift to distance learning with little advance notice, if the COVID-19 situation requires that shift. 

    We know that the unpredictability of these situations causes unease with our parents and staff. We appreciate the flexibility we’ve seen from families, students and staff so far this year. We are committed to continue learning, growing and connecting with students this year. Thank you!

    Steve Massey,
    Superintendent

     

    Comments (-1)
  • Elementary moving to Hybrid learning

    Posted by Forest Lake Area Schools on 10/26/2020 4:20:00 PM

    Dear families and staff,

    With cases of COVID-19 increasing throughout our community, we are announcing that our district’s elementary students (K-6) will transition into a hybrid learning model beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 10. This change follows extensive consultation with county and state health officials.

    At this time, we are not announcing any change for our secondary students (7th-12th grade). However, with the rising COVID-19 two-week case counts for Anoka, Chisago and Washington counties, secondary students and families should be prepared for a possible transition to distance learning. We will continue to monitor county case data over the next 2-3 weeks to determine if a change to distance learning is necessary.

    For elementary students, the last day of full in-person learning will be Wednesday, Nov. 4. There will be no school for elementary students on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 5 & 6 to allow time for our staff to prepare for this transition. Monday, Nov. 9 was a previously scheduled professional development day for our staff and will continue to be a day off for all students. 

    Our hybrid model brings elementary students in the maroon group to school in-person on Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Friday, and students in the gold group to school in-person on Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other Friday. 

    Tuesday, Nov. 10 will be the first day of in-school learning for Gold students, and Wednesday, Nov. 11 will be the first day of in-school learning for Maroon students. We will send a separate email reminding parents of their student’s maroon/gold group assignments.

    This change to hybrid will be for the longer term. We continue to monitor daily case counts, along with long-range trends in our schools and in the general community. If another change is warranted due to a change in case counts, we will give parents as much advance notice as we can. 

    We know that this change will prompt a lot of questions from families about what to expect. Please review the Elementary Hybrid Learning Plan (attached) and the maroon/gold attendance calendar. Additional information will also be coming soon from your school principal.

    An important note about childcare

    Starting Tuesday, November 10 we will provide emergency childcare for qualifying families on “at home learning days” at the Education Center. Please note that qualifications may be different than they were this spring, and that this program is separate from current SAC/Sonic before and after school childcare which will continue to run at all sites on “in-person learning days”. If your family is planning to use this childcare, please review the current information.

    Childcare will be available as a fee-based childcare option for SAC/Sonic enrolled families on Thursday, November 5 at Wyoming Elementary, Forest View Elementary and Lino Lakes Elementary. This childcare option will operate similarly to an “Inclement Weather Day” outlined in the family handbook distributed to enrolled SAC/Sonic families. There will be no childcare on Friday, November 6 as the program will be closed due to planning and preparation for the Hybrid Childcare Program starting on November 10. Monday, November 9 will remain a fee-based, non-school day childcare option for families currently enrolled (no changes to this day).

    What to expect going forward

    One of the things we’ve learned in this pandemic is that situations can and do change. We are working hard to safely keep our students in school, but COVID-19 could still throw us a curveball at any time, and if it does, families, students and staff will need to be ready to quickly adapt. 

    Moving forward, we will continue to give consideration to the Governor’s school guidance, and we will also consider the following information in deciding when and if changes are needed:

    • Zip code specific data 
    • Test positivity rate
    • Number of cases within our schools
    • Our ability to quickly contact trace and isolate any close contacts of positive cases.
    • Information from case investigations to help us see whether or not the virus is spreading within our schools, or school activities
    • Regular consultations with the Minnesota Department of Health.

    In addition, the following situations could prompt us to move into temporary or long-term distance learning:

    Covid-19 outbreak:
    If we begin to see Covid-19 spreading within a classroom, school building or activity, we will take action to contain any potential outbreak. This could mean moving a classroom, grade-level, school building or sports team into distance learning and/or quarantine. We will give families and staff as much lead-time as possible, but we will also move as quickly as we need to in order to keep students and staff safe. We will not use any specific case number or percentage, as a guideline. Instead, we will make these determinations on a case-by-case basis, using information specific to the situation.

    Staffing challenges:
    We have very limited numbers of substitute teachers, paras and other staff (do you want to apply?). Staff shortages could potentially push a school into distance learning on short notice. We will do our best to communicate as quickly as possible to give families as much advance notice as we can.

    Transportation challenges:
    Bus drivers (both permanent and substitute) have also been difficult to hire this year. Families should stay alert for emails, phone and text messages regarding any bus interruptions, delays or cancellations. We will do our best to give families as much advance notice as possible, but last-minute notifications are likely due to illness or other unexpected factors. 

    We know that the unpredictability of these situations causes unease with our parents and staff. We appreciate the flexibility we’ve seen from families, students and staff so far this year. Your willingness to adapt to changing circumstances has allowed us to begin our school year on time and continue learning, growing and connecting with students this year. 

    We sincerely appreciate the changes that families and students have made this year to follow the health guidelines, wear masks and maintain physical distancing. Thank you!

    Sincerely,
    Steve Massey, Superintendent

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  • Stay alert and ready for changes

    Posted by Forest Lake Area Schools on 10/14/2020 3:00:00 PM

    As we approach this week’s fall break, I hope you will find fun and safe ways to enjoy spending the time together with your family.

    This school year continues to require flexibility and adaptability from our staff and families. We are monitoring COVID-19 case data every day, and continuing discussions with the Minnesota Department of Health about whether current circumstances continue to support our amount of in-person learning. You might be aware that Anoka, Chisago, and Washington counties are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases.

    At this point, we are NOT announcing any change from our current model of elementary students attending school fully in person, and secondary students attending school on a hybrid schedule. However, parents should stay tuned and be prepared for a change to either elementary hybrid, or potentially full distance learning if any of the following areas begin to cause concern:

    • Community Case Data
      Numbers of cases within our community seem to be on an increasing trend, and larger numbers of individuals infected in our community create more potential for the disease to be brought into our school buildings. The school district will continue watching case data trends and will work with the Department of Health to determine if and when case trends prompt us to make a change. If we made this type of change, we would give advance notice for families and planning time for staff, and the change would be long-term.
    • Staffing concerns 
      Shortages of substitute staff members, along with an increased need for quarantining and/or staying home with symptoms that could be related to COVID-19 are combining to create staffing shortages with teachers, bus drivers, paraprofessionals and other staffing areas. It is possible that staff shortages could push the district into distance learning if we are unable to safely staff our operations.
    • Outbreaks
      Currently, we have not had any indication that COVID-19 is spreading within our schools. However, if signs of an outbreak do occur within a school or grade level, we will take necessary precautions to prevent any further spread, and that would likely require a temporary switch to distance learning for those grade levels or schools involved. 

    We know that, when it is safe, in-person learning is the preferred way for students to learn, collaborate and build relationships. We are committed to keeping students in school as long as it is safe to do so. At the same time, we want families to be alert and prepared in case we need to make a change at some point in the near future.

    Sincerely,
    Steve Massey, Superintendent

     

    Comments (-1)
  • District Calendar Change

    Posted by Forest Lake Area Schools on 9/17/2020 9:00:00 PM

    I hope your school year is off to a great start. It is great to have students back in school. As we entered this school year, I have been very clear that we need to be flexible and prepared to adjust plans in order to best meet the needs of students in this unprecedented year. 

    To help improve the learning process for students and teachers, we are adjusting our school year calendar. 

    Calendar change for all district families

    Families should take note of the following changes in our district’s previously adopted school calendar:

    • Nov. 30th will be a school day and Dec. 4 will be a non school day
    • Jan. 25 will be a school day and Jan. 29 will be a non school day
    • March 15 will be a school day and March 5 will be a non school day

    Hybrid Schedule Change

    These calendar days above were adjusted to accommodate a new hybrid schedule for secondary students. At this time, the hybrid schedule change does NOT impact elementary or pre-K students. Students in grades K-6 will continue to attend school in person every day. Preschool and early childhood will continue to follow their current schedule.

    If COVID-19 case numbers prompt our elementary schools to move to a hybrid model at some point in the future, they will follow this new hybrid schedule. Please use this new calendar to replace any previous school year calendars you printed or picked up at one of our school buildings. 

    Your understanding and flexibility is greatly appreciated this year more than ever. Please know and trust that we are committed to providing students with an excellent learning experience while remaining focused on their safety and well-being. Please reach out to your building administrators with any questions. 

    Comments (-1)
  • First Day of School

    Posted by Forest Lake Area Schools on 9/8/2020

    Dear Families,

    I know that you are receiving a lot of communications from your child’s school and teacher. Therefore, I will be brief. I am so excited to have reached the first day of school after such a long period of distance learning last year. Whether your child is attending in-person learning or attending the Ranger Academy, we are thrilled to be back to learning and engaging with our students. Thank you for the trust you have placed in your child’s school and teacher especially during these uncertain times. Please know that your child’s learning and safety and well being is our top priority. 

    A few important reminders:

    • Please go through the home wellness check with your child each morning before he/she leaves for school. We ask that you take your child’s temperature each morning. 
    • In an effort to keep everyone healthy, please do not send your child to school if he/she is not feeling well or has any COVID-19 related symptoms. Let’s err on safety rather than “fighting” through an illness.
    • We continue to monitor county and local COVID-19 cases. There has been a steady rise in cases locally and within the three counties we serve. We are in regular contact with local and state health officials as we study the safety of our current learning models. 
    • As I have shared many times, we may need to shift to a more restrictive model if COVID-19 cases increase. I ask that families be prepared if we need to shift to more at home learning in the future. 

    As always, please reach out to your child’s school if you have any questions or concerns. 

    Sincerely,
    Steve Massey
    Superintendent

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  • Announcement for the start of school

    Posted by Forest Lake Area Schools on 7/30/2020 8:00:00 PM

    This afternoon, Governor Walz gave guidance to Minnesota school districts, allowing them to make a local decision about the start of the school year based on county COVID case data.

    Tonight, the Forest Lake Area School Board made the decision to follow the state framework of recommendations for how students will be learning this year.

    Based on current data, this would mean that our school year will begin with all elementary (K-6) and early childhood students learning in-person at school, and all secondary (7-12, STEP) students attending school via a hybrid model of learning in-person part of the time and learning at home part of the time. 

    Forest Lake Area Schools will accomplish the hybrid model through an every-other-day schedule for secondary students. Students will be split into two groups, a maroon group and a gold group, and will alternate between attending school one day and learning at home one day, repeating that pattern continuously. With the recent statewide rule requiring masks in public buildings, all students and staff will wear face coverings while they are at school.

    Our highest priority is to support student learning through student/teacher connections. With this in mind, the A/B schedule was chosen so that students would have frequent opportunities to interact with their teacher and classmates, and would not have long periods of time at home before they have a chance to connect in person with their teacher.

    Families of secondary students will be contacted soon with information about which group your students have been assigned to, along with a color-coded school calendar showing maroon and gold days. Based on our survey results from earlier this summer, we know it’s important for families to have consistent schedules, so we will ensure that every student within the same household is assigned to the same group. 

    We recognize that, due to health or safety concerns, some students will not be able to return under this model. If this applies to you, please fill out this form and your building principal or a staff member will be in touch with you to discuss a distance learning option.

    Because the hybrid learning scenario for secondary students is new and unfamiliar, we recognize that there will be many questions and uncertainties. We will continue to send updates with additional details during the next few weeks, and we also will be maintaining a Frequently Asked Questions section of our COVID-19 website with more detailed information.

    Please be aware that as the COVID-19 situation changes within our community and state, we may need to switch to a different learning scenario at some point during this school year.  If there is a change, we will communicate with families, allowing as much advance notice as is possible. 

    Although the COVID-19 pandemic has brought an unusual set of challenges for our students, families and staff, we are thrilled to be able to have your students back with us. We can’t wait to get started learning and connecting this fall.  

    Comments (-1)
  • Mask requirement in schools

    Posted by Forest Lake Area Schools on 7/22/2020

    Note: please see our Frequently Asked Mask Questions for more information regarding the mask requirement in schools.

    Good afternoon families,

    This afternoon Governor Walz directed that masks or face coverings must be worn throughout Minnesota in all indoor public spaces. This new rule will include school buildings and indoor facilities. This will apply to all staff and students (kindergarten and older), and will begin on Saturday, July 25.

    We do not yet have guidance from the Governor on the amount of in-person learning that will be allowed for Minnesota schools in September. This guidance is expected to be announced next week. However, we now know that any learning or activities happening within our school building will include masks for both students and staff. 

    We are advising families, if you haven’t already done so, please begin making or purchasing cloth masks for your students, and allowing them the opportunity to become comfortable wearing them for extended periods of time. You can also help them understand the expectations for how to correctly wear a mask

    We know that many families want their students to be able to attend school in-person this fall and we are hopeful that masks will be a big preventative step in helping to accomplish that safely.

    Students who are currently enrolled in summer child care will be impacted by this new requirement beginning next week. Families of these students should watch for additional information from Community Education.

    According to the Governor’s executive order, masks may be removed while students are actively participating in sports, physical education or other indoor exercise where the level of exertion makes it difficult to wear a face covering. Athletic activities within our schools will continue to follow Minnesota’s guidance for youth or adults in sports

    If you need more details or clarifications about special circumstances, please contact your building principal.

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