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School board approves Return to Learning plan

By Staff | Aug 15, 2020

The Rugby Public School Board voted Tuesday, Aug. 11, to open schools on a modified plan based on guidelines described in North Dakota’s Smart Restart program.

The district’s Return to Learning plan was developed last month by a team of 27 educators, parents and community health professionals.

The plan calls for classes at Ely Elementary and Rugby High School to begin Aug. 26, six days later than the district’s planned Aug. 20 start date.

Class schedules under the plan will look different as well, according to Rugby Public School Superintendent Mike McNeff, who presented the plan for board approval.

On-campus instruction at Ely Elementary and Rugby High School will take place four days per week, Monday through Thursday. Fridays will be devoted to online instruction.

“There will be no Wednesday late-start days (on the school calendar),” McNeff told the board.

Students on individualized education programs and other plans would receive face-to-face instruction five days a week, McNeff said.

Because high school and middle school students move from class to class in their building, the plan calls for block scheduling, with four longer class periods per day, each given twice a week.

The plan will decrease student movement in hallways by scheduling class periods one through four on Mondays and Wednesdays, and periods five through eight on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Mc Neff told the board, “Masks will be expected for students (on both campuses during hallway passing periods) when school begins.”

Students will also be expected to wear masks on buses to and from school and at activities where social distancing is difficult, according to the plan.

Recess times at Ely Elementary will be modified to reduce the number of children on the playground. Lunches will be served to Ely students in their classrooms, with staff delivering meals on carts.

Both principals said visits by members of the public, including parents, would be restricted on Ely and Rugby High School campuses.

The Return to Learning plan uses a color-coded model, using blue to represent “new normal,” or minimal risk for contracting COVID-19, green for a low risk level, yellow for a moderate risk level, orange for a high risk level and red for a critical risk for the disease.

Rugby public schools will begin the 2020-2021 year at a blue/green, or relatively low risk level.

More elevated risk levels would see on-campus time for students reduced, or at higher levels, eliminated in favor of online-only instruction.

Rugby High School Principal Jared Blikre told the board high school sports and activities would start this year, with some modifications.

“Football and cross country have already started,” Blikre said.

Blikre reported North Dakota High School Activity Association guidelines allowed parents to attend games, however, public seating would be limited at indoor games such as volleyball, and streaming games online would be encouraged. Social distancing at outdoor sporting events such as football and cross-country races would also be encouraged.

Higher risk levels would mean reducing attendance at sporting events even further, or canceling the events altogether.

McNeff also discussed challenges students in music, science and other classes would face to maintain social distancing.

Music students will receive personal protective equipment to limit the spread of droplets from musical instruments, McNeff added.

McNeff said a distance learning discussion would be held with parents on social media Tuesday evening.

In other business, Ely Elementary Principal Jason Gullickson reported 45 kindergarteners enrolled for fall. The group would be divided among three classes. Alyssa Joppru has been hired as a new secretary for the school.

Blikre reported enrollment at Rugby High School held steady, with 275 students enrolled.

“We have five new teachers this year,” Blikre told the board. ” We should be ready to go.”

Among the teachers hired for this year are North Dakota artist Terry Jelsing, who will teach art, and Brittany Lovcik, who will develop a new consumer and family science program for the school.

Business Manager Dawn Hauck presented the district’s financials for approval. Hauk reported the district’s general fund balance as of June 30 sat at $1,450,957.34, up more than $51,000 from last year.

The board voted to approve the district’s financial reports, bills payable and tuition agreements with TGU and Leeds school districts.

The Rugby Public School Board will hold their next regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 8, at 7 a.m.

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