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Administration recommends change to school start date

Aerial view of Kuhlman stadium with water tower in foreground.
Administration recommends change to school start date

At the School Board Work Session on Aug. 6, district administrators presented a recommendation that the start date for the 2020-21 school year be moved to Sept. 8.

The recommendation followed more than four hours of presentations by district administrators, school principals and program coordinators to update the Board on operational and instructional plans for the coming school year. The meeting focused on discussion of the district’s two fall learning models: hybrid learning which combines two days of in-school learning with at-home learning; and the Edina Virtual Academy, a holistic distance learning model.

In his report, Jeff Jorgensen, director of student support services, said that given the new learning models this year, special education staff must amend individualized education plans for 1,100 students, and hundreds of other students who receive additional services. It is work that requires individualized consideration and meetings with each family.

Assistant Superintendent Randy Smasal enumerated the work that is ahead for teachers and staff who return to work later this month, noting that the usual workshop week is not enough time for all that needs to be done. “We need a quality launch to this school year,” he said. “We won’t have necessary data (on student learning model preference) until next week. And a week from Tuesday our new teachers come.” Smasal noted a high professional development need this year as teachers plan for new and unique learning models, plus learning safety protocols.

Moving the first day of school to Sept. 8 (the day after Labor Day) would give the district an additional five days for planning and preparation. In the recommendation, administration proposed offsetting those days by “frontloading” two professional development days that are currently scattered in the calendar year. Those days would become regular school days for students. An additional three student-contact days would be removed from the calendar to balance the teacher contract. These adjustments will not change the currently scheduled last day of school, June 4, 2021.

The new four-day first week of school, Sept. 8-11, would be orientation days for district students. Principals and staff are planning special school days for students to acclimate them on their chosen learning model, expectations, and safety protocols if attending in the hybrid model. The time will also be used for some assessments to help educators know their students’ starting point for learning. Smasal pointed out that last spring, when the district had to quickly shift to distance learning, teachers and students had well-established relationships and knew one another personally and academically. “It is one thing to end the year in COVID,” he said. “It is another thing to start the year in COVID.”

The recommendation to change the academic calendar will be on the School Board’s agenda for approval at its Aug. 10 regular meeting.

Find complete School Board agendas on the district website.

(Note: School Board Work Sessions are live streamed, but not usually recorded. Given the unique times and importance of sharing information about the 2020-21 Learning Models, the Aug. 6 Session was recorded. Visit the EPS YouTube channel to view the two-part recording of the Work Session.)