An update as of March week 1, 2021.
Many of our Lower School students are learning in-building. Some lower school students are learning from home.
March 15th will bring all Middle School staff and many of the Middle School students to the building for the first time in over a year.
Updated COVID Plan and Student Handbook
Our COVID Team is working on updates to the FSMN COVID Plan and the Student Handbook. We should have updated versions available by the end of March wk 2, but below are some changes you will see in some of our practices, procedures, and protocols.
Changes in Space Use Procedures
In the Lower School we have moved to 3 ft. distancing to calculate room capacities. All homeroom and specialist classrooms are able to accommodate all lower school groupings at this level.
While 3 ft. is now also the current guideline for middle and high school students, all of our middle school classrooms and specialist classrooms will accommodate all middle school groupings even at 6 ft. distancing calculations.
Multi-Pod Space Use
Since the beginning of the school year, we had taken the extra precaution of only allowing a given instructional space in the building to be used by a single pod on a particular day. For example, the specialist rotations made it so that while the Prairie was in their Art rotation, they were the only pod in the school to use the Art room.
Beginning March 15th, we will begin easing that restriction and allowing more than one group to use a space on a single day. While we will maintain our pods, and pods will not mix in a given space, more than one pod may use the Art room on the same day.
It is worth noting that the changes above DO NOT increase the likelihood of close contact with a student who may have COVID-19 as a “close contact” is still defined as being “within about 6 feet of a person who has COVID-19 for a total of at least 15 minutes throughout the course of a day (24 hours).”
This means that if a student in a given pod were to report a positive COVID-19 test result other students in the pod WOULD be considered “close contacts”, but students in other pods who used the same instructional spaces WOULD NOT be considered “close contacts.”
Staff and Student COVID Testing – Optional
Our staff have been participating in the Minnesota Department of Health’s optional, free, saliva COVID testing program for educators every other Thursday since the 21st of January.
Starting the 18th of March, we will be adding an optional, insurance-based, nasal swab, COVID testing program for both staff and students. These tests will be administered every other week as well. This program comes at no cost to the school or families, even if a family is uninsured or underinsured. This is a much shallower nasal swab than the swabs conducted earlier in the pandemic. Students can even be trained to self-administer these swabs.
These tests will be conducted during the school day, by a team from Zepto Life Technology, LLC and CLIO Laboratories.
This testing is open to At-Home Learners as well. Once we have the final details in place, we will share the timing of these testing events with these families so they can make arrangements to bring students in for testing if they are willing and able to do so.
Again, all of these tests are optional and are screening tests to help uncover asymptomatic cases in our school community. Getting tested every two weeks from now until the end of the school year can help keep schools open and sports operating, and ensure we are limiting the spread of COVID-19.
Teachers and students exhibiting symptoms should not come to school for these testing events, but rather seek testing through a physician or a clinic.
In addition to this testing offering at FSMN, the state is also making testing for students and families more widely available. This link is full of resources.
Staff and Student Travel
As COVID case rates continue to decline and the temperatures rise, it is only natural that we start to contemplate expanding our pods and widening our geographical footprints.
Schools across the country have experimented with different ways to handle travel within their communities during the pandemic to various degrees of success and failure. What I have learned from this is that we cannot really mandate and police travel bans or post travel quarantines. No more than we can mandate or police COVID risk mitigation measures outside of regular school hours.
What we can do is trust our community members, wherever they may choose to go or not go, to follow COVID risk mitigation measures to the best of their abilities, self-quarantine if they come into close contact with someone known to have an active COVID infection, fill out the FSMN Daily Health Screening Form every morning, and stay home and seek medical consultation if they develop symptoms consistent with COVID.
For the first six weeks of school, Friends School of Minnesota (FSMN) will operate in the following Learning Modes:
- Lower School (K-4) will operate in Mode #2 Hybrid (M2) – Building-based traditional learning with the option of home-based distance learning 1-5 days per week.
- Middle School (5-8) will operate in Mode #3+ Distance Learning Plus (M3+) – Home-based distance learning plus the option of building-based, supervised/proctored learning.
Both M2 and M3+ are hybrids with some students at school and some at home and both currently meet the Governor’s recommended policy options based on Ramsey county’s 14-day case rate ranges. While independent schools are not bound by the Governor’s recommendations, we, as a school dedicated to the democratic process, appreciate and trust the work that went into these recommendations. To this end, we will not move to a learning mode at a more open level than indicated by the recommendations, but may choose a learning mode at a more conservative level than indicated by the recommendations.
Where We Go Next
The operation of the first 4 weeks of school, along with local health trends, and further recommendations from the governor, will help us decide whether to move to tighten operations to the full distance learning of a pure Mode #3, or continue with Mode #2 for Lower School and Mode #3+ for Middle School for the second six weeks of school, Oct. 19th – Nov. 25th (Thanksgiving Break). It is our intention to be able to inform families about the plans for the second six weeks by Friday, Oct. 9th.
To view our entire plan go to FSMN COVID-19 Response Plan 2020-2021