District pursues plans for COVID-19

Administration looks to solve possible issues

Photo+illustration+by+Kaia+Myers.+A+light+switch+is+disinfected+March+10.

Kaia Myers

Photo illustration by Kaia Myers. A light switch is disinfected March 10.

By Marta Hill, Isabel Kjaer, and Kaia Myers

This story is accurate as of 12:55 p.m. March 13.

As COVID-19 continues its spread, Superintendent Astein Osei said the district persists with its planning, including daily disinfecting by custodians, limiting volunteers in buildings and barcoding Chromebooks for student use.

“We’re doing a lot of things to make sure we can have continuity in learning for students, and we can make sure what we consider mission-critical functions are able to continue to occur,” Osei said.

According to Osei, one of the first steps the district implemented is specific times for students to wash their hands. 

“We’ve all heard the best way to try to prevent this or to mitigate it is to wash our hands (and) cover our coughs and sneezes,” Osei said. “What we’re requiring is that schools implement daily handwashing breaks and expectations for all students and staff at least two to three times today.”

According to Osei, staff members are working together to use technology to make online education accessible.

“We’re making sure that as a teaching staff and as a group of adults, we’re strengthening our muscle and our proficiency around the online tool that we have access to so that we can make sure we can communicate with students and families via those tools,” Osei said.

Osei said the district participates in the National Food Program in the summer, where students can go to Central Community Center to get free breakfast and lunch.

“We’re working with nutrition services staff now to replicate a similar type of program,” Osei said.

The Minnesota State High School League said it is canceling the remainder of winter sports state championships.

Park is working on labeling and barcoding devices as an option for students to loan in case they don’t have access to technology at home.  

“The primary way that will facilitate learning is through technology, and we’re going to make school district technology resources available to students in the case of (closing),” Osei said. 

 “That’s the current gap because we have students that live all across the metro area, and as a school district here in St. Louis Park.”

According to Osei, the district is unsure how the possible cancelation will affect teachers, but because school districts receive revenue based on the number of days students attend school, they are unsure how revenue will be affected. 

“We’re going to work to make sure that we are being supportive and taking care of staff and students during this time,” Osei said. “Also, recognizing that may mean we have to add days on at the end of the year.”

Osei said there are no recommendations to close or cancel school in Minnesota, rather to continue working on prevention. 

“What we’ve gotten from the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health is they’re not recommending that we close,” Osei said. “What they’re recommending is that we implement the mitigation strategies like the required hand washing (and) cancelation of events that are bringing large groups of people together.”

According to Osei, the situation is ever changing and hard to plan for, but the district is following state recommendations.

This story was originally published on The Echo on March 13, 2020.