Planning for Brainerd Public Schools summer classes, child care programs and meal services is in full swing, as school board members heard details during their meeting Wednesday, May 27.
Extended School Year
The district’s special education summer school Extended School Year will be offered via distance learning this year.
Jen Johnson, director of special education at the Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative, told board members the district is required by state law to provide summer services for qualifying special education students.
The decision, Johnson said, came after much discussion with directors and superintendents within the five-county region. The program will run very similarly to the distance learning services students received during the regular school year starting March 30.
“It is important that all students have equal access to services, and we’ve determined that a lot of students have significant health concerns, and they would not be able to come into the school setting and receive those services,” Johnson said. “So to make it equitable for everyone, it was best to have distance learning for all.”
Johnson said staff has received pretty positive feedback from families regarding the distance learning process thus far. About one-third of families chose to continue on with Extended School Year, which she said is typical for the summer program. Of those who chose not to attend summer courses, Johnson said many families said they needed a break and would have taken that break whether the format was in person or distance learning.
Summer school — 5-12
Targeted services — or summer programs for regular education students — will happen via distance learning for students at Forestview Middle School, Brainerd High School, the Area Education Center and for middle level alternative students.
Jessica Haapajoki, principal at Brainerd Learning Center, said classes for middle school students will run from June 8 through the end of June, based on participation. Classes will meet twice a week via distance learning for four hours in and out of Google Hangouts with assignments in between. Forestview will offer program remediation in late July and early August, with details still to come.
Credit recovery for students in grades 9-12 will run June 8-25, with first priority going to seniors in the class of 2020 who need to recover credits to graduate. In an attempt to increase productivity, students will be required to do a 15-minute phone or Google Hangout meeting with their teacher once a week.
Summer school — K-4
At this time, there are no plans to offer targeted summer school services for elementary students.
“We need to provide equitable opportunities for all of our students that look the same,” Haapajoki said. “Just because they’re regular education doesn’t mean that we can bring them into the building on a hybrid or some other version, so we have chosen as a district not to offer any K-4 summer program distance learning this summer.”
Board member Ruth Nelson asked how many elementary students usually participate in summer courses.
“I think we do a lot of catch up with kids that need it in the summertime, and I’m concerned about not having anything to offer them this summer,” Nelson said.
Assistant Superintendent Heidi Hahn said about 170 K-4 students usually get invited to participate in summer school, and about half them typically accept. The district already began identifying students before the pandemic started, and Hahn said administrators have reached out to many of those families and learned they have very little interest in summer school courses if they can’t be face to face.
“At this time there’s really not a way to do it equitably,” Hahn said, noting the summer programs and Nisswa and Harrison elementary schools saw significant decreases the last two summers when students could not be on site due to construction.
Summer school for elementary students usually takes place the last two weeks in July and first week in August. Hahn said administrators are holding out hope they might be able to create some sort of hybrid program later on in the summer if health guidelines allow.
“We do have students identified, and we’re hoping if there’s a chance to start creating a hybrid that one of the first pockets of students that we would look at would be these elementary targeted services,” Hahn said. “The biggest thing is they’re missing the relationship and that contact. And that’s the intent of targeted services is that face to face.”
Nelson said she is glad the district is keeping the option open, noting a lot of kids will likely have a lot of makeup to do once the new school year starts if these services are not offered.
Hahn noted many elementary teachers were able to individualize lessons for their students in distance learning, which helped for some who might not typically be able to keep up in the classroom.
Fun ‘N’ Friends
The summer child care program Fun ‘N’ Friends will welcome students June 2, with staff beginning June 1.
The board approved Wednesday, May 27, recalling five Fun ‘N’ Friends leadership staff members who were furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program will run 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, at Forestview Middle School, Washington Educational Services Building and the Nisswa Community Center. Cori Reynolds, director of community education, told the board she expects there to be room for all families who need child care this summer, but children of tier 1 employees will be prioritized if need be.
So far, 154 students are enrolled in Fun ‘N’ Friends, with 27 at Forestview, 38 in Nisswa and 89 at Washington. Expected daily attendance for the first week of the program is fewer than 10 students at Forestview, 5-10 in Nisswa and 30-36 at Washington. Reynolds said she believes Fun ‘N’ Friends typically serves about 10% of the district’s elementary school population in the summer.
“I don’t believe the capacity to serve that amount exists without us,” she said, noting the YMCA has also done a wonderful job with child care services but is full right now.
The student to staff ratio, Reynolds said, will be 9:1, and students will remain in the same room throughout the summer with other students of similar ages. Meals will be served either distantly or in the classrooms. Students will rotate in and out of the gym, allowing time for the facility to be cleaned and sanitized. Frequently touched items will be sanitized throughout the day.
Parents will drop off and pick up students curbside, and all children and staff members will receive health screening upon arrival each day.
Staff will use various technology tools to cut down on the amount of paper passed around. Parents will use an app to schedule their children, and staff will punch in and out via an electronic time clock. All field trips will be walkable, and no buses will be used for both safety and budget reasons, Reynolds said.
The district’s summer meal program will continue and run similarly to the modified program running during distance learning.
Alissa Thompson, director of food services, said the district served just over 111,000 meals since March 18 under the modified program.
The summer program will provide meals for students who need them, with pickup available from 11 a.m. to noon Monday-Friday at Forestview Middle School and Washington Educational Services Building. The meals will be a bundled breakfast and lunch, with lunches varying with sandwiches, wraps, salads, fruits, vegetables and milk.
The change from the distance learning program is that meals will not be delivered in the summer due to staffing and budget, Thompson said.
School board member Bob Nystrom asked if volunteers would be allowed and said he would be willing to deliver meals if he could. Thompson said she would have to check on that, as there are many variables to take into account, such as temperature control, social distancing and waivers.
Parents who are homebound, though, can call 218-454-6936 to make other arrangements.