Though recommendations for the coming school year were not expected from the Minnesota Department of Education for another week, the Pequot Lakes School Board spent a portion of its Monday, July 20, meeting discussing the options the district is likely to choose and how best to change the education models if the COVID-19 pandemic calls for it.

The board was presented with three models. Superintendent Chris Lindholm informed board members that the administration is preparing for all three, and are preparing to change to any of the other models should the situation change for better or worse.

The first model calls for in-person instruction every day, with distance learning available to families who want it. Students would be onsite every day, with distancing protocols implemented as much as possible.

The second is a hybrid model that would see 50% of students onsite at a given time. In this model, K-6 students would be onsite every day - utilizing all spaces for better distancing. Grades 7, 9 and 11 would be onsite Mondays and Tuesdays, while grades 8, 10 and 12 would be in the building on Thursdays and Friday. Wednesdays would be used for thoroughly cleaning the building. Special education, intervention and enrichment services would be available every day.

In both of these models, the school day would be shortened to 1:15 p.m. for elementary students and 1:25 p.m. of middle and high school students, allowing teachers to have a prep hour for the following day and contact distance learning students. During this time, custodial staff and paraprofessionals would wipe down surfaces.

Both models would also see students adhere to a strict “homeroom model,” staying with the same group of students throughout the day.

Early Childhood programs would run as normal in these models.

The third model would have all students engage in distance learning through Schoology. Interventions for students would be provided as allowed by MDE, but no early childhood programming would be permitted.

Masks would be made available for teachers and students, while nurses and special education teachers would also have access to face shields. Parents would be encouraged to drive kids to school themselves to enable greater distancing on buses.

“Safety should be the first priority,” board member Mike Erholtz said. “Education is second. The mental health and well-being of the kids should be ‘2A’ … We are not going to be able to make everyone happy.”

The board also approved designs presented to it regarding the remodeling of the old Echo Journal, which is to become classroom space and a robotics lab for the district. However, the board added a caveat that if costs seem to exceed $600,000, the plans must return to the board for further consideration.

“This is $100,000 more than we have already approved,” board chair Kim Bolz-Andolshek said. “I think if this goes over budget, it needs to come back to the board to figure it out.”

In other action, the board:

  • Approved the district’s 10-year facilities maintenance plan, which they do on an annual basis.

  • Tabled an agreement with the City of Pequot Lakes regarding a school liaison officer, with concerns rising over the hours worked by the office if the district is forced to do distance learning or operate in a hybrid model, as well as rising costs to the district.

“We generally shoot for 3% year-over-year increases in our employee contracts, and this one has gone up 10% for the second year in a row,” Erholtz said.

  • Repealed policies regarding the promotion and retention of students, and graduation exercises. Lindholm said both policies are no longer relevant.

  • Accepted two donations to the district totalling $5,344.36.

In its consent agenda, the board approved an extended leave of absence for high school math teacher Katrina Moody and the hiring of long-term substitute teacher Elisa Inberg.