• Frequently Asked Questions 

    Don't see your question here? Email covidplanning@isd318.org for updates. MDE has also created an FAQ about the regulations they have provided for schools.


    When will we know?
    School reopening is based on the number of cases in our area per 10,000 residents. Details are available in the chart located on our website. We are scheduled to open for in-person learning on September 8, this could change if cases rise.

    If cases rise dramatically in an area, schools may choose to implement strategies that are more restrictive than the scenario established by the state but may not choose to implement plans for a scenario that is less restrictive.

    A Learning Model Advisory Team has been created to advise and assist in the decisions around the school district’s learning model. The team consists of school district staff, the Itasca County Public Health Nurse, the President/CEO of a local healthcare provider, a local physician, and the School Board Chair. Our Learning Model Advisory Team will meet on Thursdays at 8:00 am to review the data from the previous two week period as well as trends over time.

    When possible, decisions to stay with a model or switch learning models will be made on regular intervals and communicated to the public

    • August 21: the decision will be made to confirm/change the Learning Model for the period September 8-18*
    • September 11: the decision will be made to confirm/change the Learning Model for the period September 21-October 2*
    • September 25: the decision will be made to confirm/change the Learning Model for the period October 5-October 14*
    • October 9: the decision will be made to confirm/change the Learning Model for the period October 20-October 30*

    *local conditions and spikes in cases may cause these timelines to change, and possibly change quickly

    Will students be tested for COVID-19 in schools?
    No. However, staff will be trained to identify COVID-19 symptoms. If a student exhibits those symptoms, they will be sent to the school nurse and a parent or guardian will be called to pick the student up. Students will be isolated to limit the spread. Families should contact their health care provider right away if a student exhibits symptoms. Parents are responsible for taking their child(ren) in for testing if directed to do so by a medical professional.

    Will students and staff need to wear masks?
    Governor Walz's Executive Order 20-81 requires masks to worn in school buildings and on school buses. Types of face coverings can include a paper or disposable mask, a cloth mask, a neck gaiter, a scarf, a bandanna, or a religious face covering. A face covering must cover the nose and mouth completely. The covering should not be overly tight or restrictive and should feel comfortable to wear.

    There are exceptions for students with a medical, developmental, or behavioral condition. There are also exceptions for strenuous activities like gym class if social distancing can be maintained.

    We are committed to fostering a respectful environment in which there are no stigmas associated with wearing masks and taking other precautions. Part of teaching students in person means wearing masks. If we can move away from the conversation about masks versus no masks and focus on using masks to keep kids in school, we know that the children will follow our lead.

    Can students wear face shields instead of masks?
    Select staff and students may use face shields without masks. In the following situations, a shield is considered an appropriate face covering: Among students in Kindergarten through grade 8, when wearing a face covering is problematic, by teachers (all grades), when wearing a face covering may impede the educational process, for staff and students who cannot tolerate a face-covering due to a developmental, medical, or behavioral health condition, for staff providing direct support student services, or when a face-covering impedes the service being provided. In each of these situations, while using a face shield, social distancing of 6 feet should be maintained.

    Will students be disciplined for not wearing masks?
    We will work with children and model positive behavior about masks in the classroom before any discipline takes place. We know that in order to have kids in school, we must wear masks. If we can move away from the conversation about masks versus no masks and focus on using masks to keep kids in school, we know that the children will follow our lead. We intend to treat wearing a mask, just as we would if a student wore a t-shirt with a provocative statement on it. Our first step would be to talk with the student about it. If necessary, we would bring parents into the conversation.

    Can I move my child to remote learning at any point in the school year?
    A parent can start in person and move to remote learning at any time during the year. We will ask parents who want to transition their child back into a classroom to wait until the next quarter break to request a move back into the classroom because schedules, classroom arrangements, transportation and food service are based on the number of students in a building.

    What is hybrid learning?
    When we move to a hybrid model, it doesn’t necessarily mean a mix of in-person and remote learning at the same time. 

    Hybrid actually means 50% building capacity, not 50% enrollment. We will reach the hybrid model for middle and high school students before reaching that for elementary. If capacity and distancing requirements cannot be met, students may attend every day or part-time based on capacity limits. Elementary students will be on-site every week-day of the school calendar as space permits. We have the ability to transform some spaces in our schools into classrooms if necessary.

    Can I choose to have my child do in-person on some days and remote learning on the other?
    Not at this time. We do not have the staffing capacity to offer both. As stated above, our class placements, staffing, and more will be based on how many children are expected to attend every day.

    How are we going to ensure students are safe?
    We believe the safety of children and adults is a priority. Safety includes not only the risks associated with infection and transmission of COVID-19, but also the mental health, physical health, and emotional health of children that is impacted when they are separated from peers and caring adults at school. Decisions based on safety should be backed by sound data and a comprehensive, whole-child view of safety.

    Using guidance from public health officials and the Minnesota Department of Health, our district health staff are putting together protocols for how we will make sure that students and staff are healthy when they arrive at school as well as what to do in the event that a student or staff person is determined to be ill. We are also developing clearing and sanitization procedures that will be deployed in school buildings by our maintenance staff to make sure we are keeping our buildings clean and safe. Finally, we will be following all of the public health guidance when it comes to gathering, personal protective equipment like masks, face shields, and gloves, and physical distancing in the buildings. 

    How will the district clean buildings, rooms, and surfaces to ensure a safe learning environment?
    The district will implement enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols to help keep students, staff, and families safe while COVID-19 remains with us. Our custodial staff will significantly increase the wiping down and disinfecting of public spaces and high-touch surfaces throughout the school day. We will also provide greater access to cleaning materials for our teachers and staff so that they can clean and disinfect spaces, as needed.

    Each evening, our custodial team will conduct a thorough cleaning of our spaces, again disinfecting high-touch surfaces like sinks, drinking fountains, door handles, tables, and desks.

    How will children be screened? Will you take temperatures every day?
    Screening is an important part of reducing risk at school, and there are a number of ways to do that, including parent screenings and screenings by staff when students arrive. We have the ability to do temperature checks on many children, but at this point, we have not set aside time in the school day to check all students. Instead, we have created a number of self-screening documents to help parents decide if their child should attend school. Staff will also be trained to watch for symptoms throughout the day.

    You can find a list of screening documents on our website.

    What happens if there is a case in one of our schools?
    If there is a case in our schools, we will communicate that information to families. Extra cleaning will take place in areas where the infected person spent time. We will work with our MDH Regional Support Team and Itasca County Public Health to identify and contact persons who may have come in contact with the infected person. However, because it is protected health data, schools cannot provide personally identifiable information about an infected person. This information may include name, grade level, or class information.

    The Governor's plans also prioritize testing for staff and students exposed in a school setting. If cases increase because of exposure at school, we would know and be able to react in a very short amount of time.

    What are the Regional Support Teams?
    If there is a case in one of our schools, we will receive help from our Regional Support Team and Itasca County Public Health. The Regional Support Team will

    • facilitate consultation between District Administration and MDH as related to shifting to new models based on county case data,
    • provide guidance and action steps when positive cases are identified in schools,
    • and provide information to school staff on how to obtain their saliva tests if needed (per Governor order). 

    The Regional Support Teams do NOT test children or staff in schools. In addition, this team will work with local public health agencies to provide testing in their communities if determined necessary.

    Will the district close schools if a certain number of students or staff report illnesses?
    Yes, the district is preparing for situations in which school buildings need to once again close due to a significant number of students or staff testing positive for COVID-19 or reporting other illnesses. We are also planning for the need to close buildings if there is a considerable increase in COVID-19 cases in our state or region.

    Please note that the decision to close schools in our district rests largely on the decisions made by the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education.

    If we have to do distance learning again, will it look the same?
    No. It will be better. One of the things we learned during distance learning was just how hard it was for some parents and children and how hard it was for our staff. In fact, the district did a parent survey to hear how things went, and we have been able to take away some important ideas from that survey. We also have more guidance from the state about what they expect as well as some state survey data that is helping us plan for distance learning in a new way so we can make sure we are doing the best job we can ensuring students have equitable access to a high-quality education and we have systems in place to support students, families, and staff.

    Our intention with #318ConnectEd is to offer instruction from teachers that already know our students and community. Students will learn at the same pace as their peers and be able to integrate back into the classroom if they choose to do so later in the year. We are also offering professional development opportunities for our staff who are interested in participating in remote learning, taking advantage of the most recent training in best practices for remote learning. Registration for 318 ConnectEd is available using this form through August 16. If you are reviewing this after August 16, please contact your child's building principal as soon as possible.

    I am not yet comfortable sending my child to school. Can I have them continue with remote learning only this school year?
    Yes. Please see the information on 318 ConnectEd above.

    What are the plans to support children with learning disabilities?
    Special education staff have been part of our planning discussions so far this summer and will continue to help ensure the needs of students with disabilities are included in the process. One of our goals is to ensure we are providing equitable access to a quality education, no matter what the model is, so we need to make sure we are ensuring that IEP goals are met, that parents are communicated with throughout the process, and if there are concerns that we are listening and can make the accommodations we need in order for our students with disabilities to be successful.

    Why should we choose to go back to 318?
    First and foremost, because our teachers and our staff know and love your children. They’ve devoted their lives to education and live in our communities in order to serve. I’ve heard from so many teachers already just how much they miss their students and how they can’t wait to see them in the fall. Second, we are committed to providing an equitable education for all children and providing support for our students and their families, no matter what model of education we end up in. We are thinking a lot about the struggles that some people experienced this past spring and how we can support our students and their families. And finally, I think it is more important now than ever that we stick together as a community. Students need consistency, they need structure, they need familiar faces, and as a district, we are excited to continue to serve and support you.

    What will sports and activities look like? Will there be a difference between contact and non-contact sports?
    On August 4, the Minnesota High School League (MSHSL) decided to:

    • Hold shortened seasons for fall Cross Country, Soccer, Tennis, and Swimming and Diving
    • Move Football and Volleyball to a season running from mid-March to mid-May
    • Shift Spring activities to a season running mid-May into July
    • Create flexibility for practices in sports not operating during their typical calendar period

    If my child enrolls in a different online program than ISD 318 ConnectEd can they still play 318 sports??
    The Minnesota High School League (MSHSL) eligibility requirements do not allow students who are enrolled in another district or online educational program to participate in ISD 318 sports. These students are considered transfer students by the Minnesota High School League and will be ineligible for competition, regardless of residency or if they re-enroll in ISD #318. The MSHSL Eligibility Brochure is available on each of our Activity Pages.

    Why can’t you use the empty elementary schools?
    Forest Lake, because of the plan to eventually demolish that building, is really in no shape to hold students in the fall. Using Southwest and Murphy Elementary is one of the options on the table, but doing so would cost the district quite a bit of money because it would require additional staff to operate the buildings, staff the buildings, and would result in unanticipated costs in maintenance, utilities like electricity and heat, snow plowing, things like that. Also, part of the plan of moving to the new buildings, in order to be fiscally responsible, was the reuse of much of the existing technology and furniture from Murphy and Southwest. For instance, playground equipment, technology, and furniture has already been moved and installed in the new sites.