Aitkin extends, expands distance learning; Little Falls to start distance learning Nov. 18

Aitkin water tower
Aitkin fourth through 12th graders will distance learn through Jan. 15. Brainerd Dispatch file photo

Fourth through 12th grade students in Aitkin will be in a distance learning format until mid-January, while Little Falls students will begin their distance learning sooner than expected.

“We are making this change due to not being able to safely staff our schools and concerns about COVID transmission among students and staff when at school,” Aitkin Superintendent Dan Stifter said in an announcement Tuesday, Nov. 17. “Our school teams have done everything possible to cover with subs, shuffle staff, collapse sections, and teach remotely; however, we’ve simply reached the point at which the safety of students and staff is being compromised. We want nothing more than to be with our students every day in-person. However, at this time it is not sustainable to stay in person Pre-K through 12.”

There will be no classes for any students Friday, Nov. 20, with distance learning beginning the following Monday and lasting through Jan. 15. Administrators will evaluate local data and staffing at that time.

Students in pre-kindergarten through third grade will continue with in-person classes, along with those receiving special education services or specific interventions. Students activities and athletics will continue.

Families with concerns about internet connectivity should contact the district for assistance.


“This is not a decision anyone wants to make,” Stifter wrote to families. “I want our students to be here in our schools where they learn best, but COVID-19 knows no boundaries and we need to respond to protect our students, staff, and the greater community. Thank you for continuing to support our students and staff.”

RELATED: Area superintendents urge communities to follow COVID-19 guidelines

Little Falls

Little Falls students will begin distance learning classes Wednesday, Nov. 18, instead of waiting until next week.

Originally planning to move back into distance learning Nov. 23 due to staffing constraints, Little Falls Community Schools announced late last week Lindbergh Elementary students would make the move Tuesday, Nov. 17, after a number of cases impacted both staff and students. Monday was a transition day.

The district announced Monday, Nov. 16, the rest of the student body would follow suit, taking Tuesday as a transition day and beginning distance learning Wednesday.

“It has become readily apparent that we cannot continue operating our school district this way in a manner that leaves us very, very short of staff each day and a rapidly increasing amount of students absent from school each day,” Superintendent Stephen Jones announced in a statement Monday.

Tuesday was a transition day with no classes for students at Lindbergh Elementary.

“I know this has been a difficult time for families full of constant change,” Jones wrote. “I am sincerely sorry for that. However, we are living in a world of coronavirus that has presented incredible challenges to you as families and us as a school district. Please let us know how we can be of assistance to you.”


This change marks the fourth learning model shift this year at Little Falls Community Schools. Students began the year in person, with seventh through 12th graders transitioning to hybrid learning Oct. 5. Surging Morrison County COVID-19 cases drove all students to distance learning Oct. 26, but they returned to the classroom Nov. 10 when clarifying guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education said schools should rely on more data than just county cases when determining a learning model.

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