Distance Learning Update, Tuesday, May 5, 2020
Per Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-41 and the subsequent directive from the Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner, Mary Cathryn Ricker, distance learning was extended through the end of the school year. For Morris Area Schools, that date is May 29th. Part of Commissioner Ricker’s directive included planning time on May 1st and 4th so districts could re-assess and update our distance learning plans. The past six weeks have been filled with challenges and successes. Students, staff, and parents have worked hard to implement distance learning in a relevant and equitable manner. One of the updates we are making to the MAS Distance Learning Plan is identified below in “Instructional Delivery”.
May 20, 2020 will be the last day of distance learning new instruction for students who have met grade/course expectations. Students will be counted as present during these Distance Learning wrap-up days (May 21 - May 29) Teachers will use the remaining six instructional days for the following purposes:
Additional support and interventions for students not meeting course/grade level expectations. If your child is not meeting current course or grade expectations, the school will inform you and your child.
College in the School course instruction (CIS classes will continue as scheduled through May 29)
Instant Alert, Monday, April 27, 2020
Governor Walz has extended distance learning throughout the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Distance Learning will NOT be held Friday, May 1 & Monday, May 4 per the Governor’s order. These days have been designated for the purpose of teacher planning and preparation. Child care and school meals WILL be provided May 1 & May 4 as regularly scheduled. Please check the district website, facebook page, and your email and text for updates. Thanks in advance for your continued patience and support.
Superintendent, Morris Area Schools
Distance Learning Extended for Rest of School Year, Thursday, April 23, 2020
Good evening, this is an important announcement from Morris Area Schools.
Gov. Tim Walz announced during his 2:00 pm news conference today that he is extending distance learning for E-12 public schools through the end of the current school year. We appreciate the incredible amount of effort our students, families, and staff have put in during the past four weeks of distance learning. We realize distance learning has been a challenge and we will work with the Department of Education, parents, students, and staff to make adjustments that help address concerns. There was little specific guidance given by MDE today, but we expect more to come forward very soon. I assure we will pass on information to all stakeholders as we receive it. In addition to extending distance learning through the remainder of the school year, the Minnesota State High School League officially cancelled the remainder of all spring sports and activities. The number one question we are receiving concerns Graduation. We now know we will not be able to have a traditional graduation ceremony. We have been talking about possible alternatives in the event this would happen and we will work with our Student Council, administration and families to plan a ceremony that honors and celebrates our seniors and their milestone accomplishments in a manner that is safe for all. Please watch your email, text messages, the district website and facebook page for updates.
COVID 19 Update Wednesday, March 25, 2020
Hello, this is Superintendent Troy Ferguson with a COVID-19 update from Morris Area Schools.
This afternoon, Governor Walz announced new measures he is ordering in our state to combat the Coronavirus. First, all Minnesota public and charter schools will be providing distance learning to our students beginning Monday, March 30 through “at least” May 4. The staff at Morris Area Schools have been working diligently since March 16 to prepare in the event this order was given. Our district’s plan will be loaded on the district website on Friday, March 27. It will include a multitude of links addressing elementary and high school distance learning, childcare for children of families of critical services workers, nutrition services for children 18 and under, health and wellness, attendance, special education and 504 plans, early learning, English language learners, broadband access, and more. Parents and community members will be able to click on individual links that guide them to information for each topic within the plan.
The Governor also ordered that from 11:59PM March 27 through April 10, Minnesotans are directed to stay home except for those involved in delivering critical services. Among those critical services remaining open are childcare facilities and food providers (not dine in). Schools have been directed to continue to provide equitable distance learning, meals for children 18 and under, and childcare for children of families of critical services workers through the shelter in place order and distance learning duration. You can find more information on the shelter in place order by searching “StayHomeMN”. The information on COVID-19 continues to evolve as the crisis increases. Morris Area Schools will continue to follow the advice and guidance of the experts at CDC, MDH, MDE, local public health, and state and local government as we make local decisions. Thank you all for your patience and understanding as we navigate this unprecedented time. Our teachers and staff are anxious to reconnect with our students. Knowing we will have distance learning through May 4 will hopefully bring a bit of stability as well as
routine for our students and families, the unknown can be both frustrating and scary to us all. Changes will inevitably continue to happen rapidly. Please keep checking our district website and facebook page for updates. My very best to you and yours,
*Update from the Minnesota State High School League: Effective immediately and continuing until the Governor of Minnesota has lifted his school closure declaration:
• All participation in MSHSL spring activities at all member schools is suspended.
• Participation includes, but is not limited to, competitions, training, practices, scrimmages, and contests.
Pending a reopening of schools by the Governor, return to participation protocols will be determined and communicated by the MSHSL Board and MSHSL staff. No decisions regarding the cancellation of spring activities have been made at this time. The suspension of participation includes fine arts activities and athletics and the following events remain suspended indefinitely:
• Speech Section and State Tournaments
• Music Contests
• Visual Arts Competitions and State Festival
• MSHSL State Robotics Tournament
• MSHSL Clay Target State Tournament
Additional information will be provided as it becomes available and as decisions are made.
Governor’s School Closure Update Wednesday, March 18, 2020
Hello, I’d like to take a few moments to update you all on our progress developing an equitable distance learning plan as directed by Governor Walz and Commissioner Reicker. In addition to developing the equitable distance learning plan, the Governor ordered school districts to continue to provide meals for students free of charge, as well as free childcare for children 12 and under of health and emergency workers. I am very proud of the can-do attitude of our staff as they worked together to put systems in place to provide these vital services by March 18 (today) as ordered. Morris Area Schools provided 145 breakfast and lunches to students across our district today, nutrition service workers alongside office professionals, paraprofessionals, and transportation workers, developed the system to reach families, schedule pick-up locations, prepare meals, and deliver them to all students 18 years and under. Community education along with technology, paraprofessionals, and office professionals created a program and staffed it so we could care for 11 children of emergency and health care workers today. We expect the numbers of meals served and children receiving free daycare to increase over the next week and beyond if the closure is extended beyond March 27. Our custodial staff along with paraprofessionals are performing a deep clean of the building and working diligently to assure a clean and safe environment for our students, staff, and community. Last but not least, our teachers along with specialists, and administration are working diligently to develop an equitable distance learning program in the event schools are ordered closed March 30. It is nothing short of amazing to see your Morris Area School Staff face this crisis head on and work so selflessly to insure our students continue to receive necessary services and a quality, equitable education no matter what the immediate future brings. Planning will continue through March 27.
Many of you have asked if the closure will continue beyond March 27. The response we continue to receive from the state is “prepare as if it will” but they will not make the final decision yet, likely not until later next week. I will let you all know as soon as I am told. In the meantime, Morris Area Schools will continue to do the important work of providing vital services and planning if the worst case happens. I urge us all to do our best to remain calm during this crisis. Rumor spreading, blaming, or panic never solved any crisis. Thoughtful, deliberate action based on the guidance of experts and carried out by communities committed to sticking together and helping each other is the path to solutions. Together, we will make it through this.
Sunday, March 15, 2020
Hello, This is Superintendent Ferguson with an important message from Morris Area Schools. This morning, Governor Walz authorized a plan to give schools time to plan for extended distance learning should the need arise due to the COVID-19. In conjunction with the Governor’s directive, Morris Area Schools will be closed starting Monday March 16 through Friday March 27. These are not E-learning days. All activities, including Community Education, are cancelled. The Governor has said districts need to ensure they will provide equitable education and required services for all students in the event extended distance learning becomes necessary. We will be using the next two weeks to plan how we will accomplish this directive. This vital task will take the collective efforts and skill of all our employees. All staff are required to report for a meeting in the Concert Hall at 8:00 am on Monday, March 16. The buildings will be open to parents and students tomorrow, March 16 to retrieve belongings and educational items from 9:15 am to noon and 4:00-6:00 pm. The #1 priority of our staff and students is safety and security. It is important we all remain calm. Please be assured we will continue to follow protocol and guidance from the experts in COVID-19 and we will meet the challenges that face us. The information is fluid and can change rapidly. We will keep you apprised as changes occur.
Friday, March 13, 2020
The heightened concerns resulting from the increase in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases here in the US and abroad continue to grow. A question I believe all of the stakeholders of Morris Area Schools have is “What is our district doing to address this increasing concern?” First let me assure you all that the safety, well being, and security of our students and staff is our number one priority. Schools and other public and private organizations are working with local, state and national officials to identify threats, trends and most effective courses of action in combating this virus.
COVID-19 is a new virus and health officials and medical experts are working around the clock to learn more in order to combat it as effectively as possible. According to health and medical experts, initial indications are that the virus is about as infectious as influenza. The information changes rapidly though and recommendations from experts may also change quickly in the coming days, weeks and months. Some recommendations to help stop/reduce the spread of COVID-19 are very similar to those for influenza and continue to be recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). We will continue to stress these precautions with our students and staff in school. They include:
Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow. If you sneeze or cough into a tissue, throw it in the trash right away.
Keep your hands out of your mouth, nose, and eyes. This will help keep germs out of your body.
Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Follow these five steps—wet, lather (make bubbles), scrub (rub together), rinse and dry. You can sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
If you don’t have soap and water, try to use a special hand cleaner.
Keep things clean. Older children can help adults at home and school clean the things we touch the most, like desks, doorknobs, light switches, and remote controls. (Note you can find more information about cleaning and disinfecting on CDC’s website.)
Stay away from people who are coughing, sneezing, or sick.
Elderly people and those with chronic medical conditions should take extra precautions to avoid crowds.
If you feel sick, stay home. Just like you don’t want to get other people’s germs in your body, other people don’t want to get your germs either. *** Students and staff who have had a fever should stay home until they are fever free for at least 24 hours without taking fever-reducing meds.
Important information for all adults when talking to kids about COVID-19
Remain calm and reassuring.
Remember that children will react to both what you say and how you say it. They will pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others.
Make yourself available to listen andto talk.
Make time to talk. Be sure children know they can come to you when they have questions.
Avoid language that might blame others and lead to stigma.
Remember that viruses can make anyone sick, regardless of a person’s race or ethnicity. Avoid making assumptions about who might have COVID-19.
Pay attention to what children see or hear on television, radio, or online.
Consider reducing the amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. Too much information on one topic can lead to anxiety.
Provide information that is honest and accurate.
Give children information that is truthful and appropriate for the age and developmental level of the child.
Talk to children about how some stories on COVID-19 on the Internet and social media may be based on rumors and inaccurate information.
Teach children everyday actions to reduce the spread of germs.
Remind children to stay away from people who are coughing or sneezing or sick.
Remind them to cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow, then throw the tissue into the trash.
Discuss any new actions that may be taken at school to help protect children and school staff.
(e.g., increased handwashing, cancellation of events or activities)
Get children into a handwashing habit.
Some of you have begun to inquire about possibilities that could happen in our schools in the coming days/weeks/months. Questions about school closings, e-learning, cancellations of events, status of sports and activities, scheduled field trips, and many more have surfaced. Closing school is a major issue and one not taken lightly. Many parents work while their children attend school and daycare would be a great challenge for them, some of our students get the majority of their meals while at school, some of our students receive vital services in school each day that cannot be replicated outside school, and the impactful learning and experiences our students receive each day at school prepare them for the future. That said, I’ll reiterate that the safety, well being, and security of our students and staff is the number one priority at Morris Area Schools. I assure you we will be deliberate and thoughtful as we continue working with local, state, and national agency experts to develop our plan to deal with COVID-19. District leadership has been sharing with experts and we are meeting again tomorrow to join a webinar by the Minnesota Department of Education and other professional entities. We will use the guidance of the experts to continue to develop our plan and strategies to prepare for whatever challenges may come next. There are so many unknowns at this time but I will be communicating with you often and keep you all up to date as this quickly changing crisis unfolds.