All Brainerd students now have specific dates when they can expect to return to in-person learning.

In a letter to families Friday, Jan. 8, Superintendent Laine Larson announced more details on the district’s phased reopening plan, including timelines for third through 12th graders to return to the classroom.

The transition to in-person learning started after Gov. Tim Walz gave schools new directives during a news conference Dec. 16. He said elementary schools could choose to operate an in-person learning model without consulting their regional support team, as long as they are able to implement all updated health and safety measures outlined in the state’s Safe Learning Plan. He advised phased reopening with a few grades making the transition at a time.

Related: Walz easing restrictions on indoor dining, bars, theaters beginning Jan. 11

Larson announced later in December students in early childhood classes up through second grade would begin in-person classes Jan. 19. In her letter Friday, she announced third and fourth grade students would return to the classroom Feb. 1.

If nothing changes with those plans, fifth graders will return to on-site learning Feb. 1 as well, followed by sixth through 12th graders Feb. 16. Whether this on-site learning for middle and high school students will be a modified in-person model or hybrid learning is yet to be determined, pending approval from the state.

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Distance learning began Nov. 5 for middle and high school students in Brainerd, while younger students followed suit Nov. 18.

Distance learning will still be an option through the end of the school year for families who choose it. Any students currently enrolled in distance learning will be able to come back to in-person learning as their grade level is able to return. Families who want to change their student’s enrollment status must complete a change form at http://bit.ly/EnrollmentChange.

Related: No more emergency powers? Walz outlines path to end COVID-19 authority

The district continues to follow cleaning and disinfecting recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education, Larson said in her letter.

“As new technologies and products become available, the district will incorporate and improve current processes and procedures to provide the safest learning environments for students and staff,” she wrote.

Walz also included in his Dec. 16 update a mandate for all schools with in-person or hybrid learning to provide on-site saliva testing for all staff who interact with students beginning Jan. 4.

As of Jan. 8, Larson said there were 11 staff members in quarantine, including six paraprofessionals, but she did not know the student count, as all students are distance learning. Since the beginning of the year, there have been five COVID-19 cases in staff members and one in students.

“As we take time to reflect on what has been one of the most challenging years in our lives, I want to extend my sincere appreciation, hopefulness, and dreams for a happy, healthy, and productive second half to our school year – one where all children will continue to learn in the most effective and efficient way possible,” Larson concluded her letter. “For your continuous collaboration and support, I am forever grateful and look forward to working together in anticipation of a future filled with student success. My best to all in 2021and thank you.”

Larson’s full letter is available at http://bit.ly/181COVIDLetter.