Reopening Schools during COVID-19

School is back in session! After a long few months full of uncertainty and dismay, students are heading back to the classroom… well sort of. 


The majority of schools in the county are implementing distance-learning this school year to follow social-distancing guidelines. This means that instruction will take place online rather than in-person. 


School faculty has been working on a safe and effective plan for months before the start of the school year. Our Executive Director Dana Healy spoke with Curtis Johnson who is a member of the Roseville School Board at the end of August about reopening Roseville schools this fall.


Last spring, Minnesota schools were abruptly shut down as COVID-19 cases grew in the United States. Schools did not have time to prepare for this. “We literally had eight days to come up with a plan,” said Johnson. 


Having summer break this time around gave schools a lot more time to come up with a plan for reopening. Roseville schools will be using two types of online learning: synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous learning is when the teacher and students meet at a specific time virtually to speak with each other directly, and asynchronous learning is when online work such as pre-recorded videos is assigned to students with no specific group meeting time. 


While planning for the upcoming school year, the Roseville School Board sent out a family survey to gather feedback and suggestions from student family members before they made their final decision. “The big takeaway is that parents want to have the kids back in school. As a parent, I want to have my kids back in school,” said Johnson. The first survey found that 27 percent of parents said they wanted to switch to distance-learning. The second time the survey was sent out, it went up to 40 percent. 


The Roseville School Board also held a number of parent committees where student family members could come in and express their thoughts and opinions on reopening. “Parents just want what’s best for their kids,” said Johnson. 


Not only will Roseville schools be applying distance-learning this year, but they will also be setting up better communication methods between teachers. “It’s not this idea of one teacher or two teachers with one class, and they just deal with everything. It’s this idea that we have these cohorts of teachers working together, sharing what works and what doesn’t work,” said Johnson.


Along with the classroom, things are going to be looking a lot different on the field this year for fall sports. Volleyball and football have already been moved to the spring, but all the other fall sports will take place during their regular season. However, these sports are going to be run quite differently. 


Athletes will practice social-distancing between their opponents, a limited number of fans will be allowed to watch the events, and a majority of practices will be held outdoors. Many athletes chose not to participate in summer camps because they did not feel comfortable starting so soon. However, Roseville schools decided that they would not keep these athletes from participating fall sports. “We will just continue to innovate as we can,” said Johnson. 


Johnson recently became chair of The Association of Metropolitan School Districts (MSD) which is a group of school leaders who advocate for the 42 greater metropolitan school districts and advance legislation that supports student achievement. Johnson hopes he can make an impact on his community through this work with the MSD. “We have an interesting situation coming up in the legislature. So the MSD will definitely be a part of trying to lobby the legislature and make sure that we have adequate funding for the next biennium. And that’s going to be of crucial importance to all schools, especially Roseville area schools,” said Johnson.