Back to School 2020 a Year Like None Other
On the first day of school in 2019, staff members from Minnesota Excellence in Learning Academy (MELA) in Maple Grove literally rolled out the red carpet to welcome students back to the classroom.
“Last year we had rolled out a red carpet, had this playlist with balloons, high-fiving, cheering on kids as they’re walking into school,” said Danielle Fields, the executive director of MELA.
But that was last year.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still looming, classes kicked off this year with considerably less fanfare .
“Our start of the school year, really spent a lot of time trying to work with and inform families what school looks like this year and the safety precautions that we’re taking so everyone can be safe and healthy,” Fields said.
Different Learning Models
MELA is a charter school that serves students in preschool through grade six. Fields says that of the 220 children enrolled at MELA, roughly half chose to go with a distance learning model.
The remaining students are in a hybrid model, which has them in the building two days a week, depending on which group they’re assigned to. Students in Group A are in the building Monday and Tuesday, while students in Group B are in the building Thursday and Friday. Wednesday is reserved for cleaning and disinfecting of the building.
“When students come in in the morning, our buses come in, in the front entry, and we have a person from each grade level, social distancing apart, ready to meet with students and ask them, ‘how are they feeling for the day,’ your typical COVID question,” Fields said.
Students and staff members also get temperature checks, and everyone is required to wear a mask. Access to the building is also limited, which means that even news reporters can’t enter.
It’s a format that will continue for the foreseeable future.
Monitoring State Guidance
“We really are following the guidance from the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Health,” Fields said. “That means I’m looking at county and case numbers every single week.”
Whether the guidelines change remains to be seen. But for the time being, staff members will do their best to provide a quality education through distance learning and limited in-person instruction.
“I absolutely think that quality education can still exist in a distance learning or a hybrid learning model,” Fields said. “Does it require us to rethink things? Does it require us to work really hard and adapt? Absolutely, but it certainly is possible.”
And maybe, just maybe, they’ll be able to roll out the red carpet again when this school year wraps up.
“Wouldn’t that be great? We would love that,” Fields said.