The School Board for Wayzata Public Schools will implement health and safety measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the upcoming school year.
The board passed a resolution to enact multiple measures, including mandatory mask wearing, by a 6-1 vote. Chris McCullough was the lone member to vote ‘Nay.’
The board held a work session to discuss the efforts that will be in place before Monday’s meeting. Superintendent Dr. Chace Anderson and Associate Superintendent Nathan Flansberg presented the mitigation protocols being recommended. The measures have some variation between buildings.
- K-8 Grade: All people in school must wear masks 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
- 9-12 Grade: All people in school must wear masks 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. except indoor physical education, classes with physical activity and designated after-school activities.
- Transition program: All people in Wayzata Transition School are required to wear masks in the building.
Outside of designated times, masking is still being recommended. Wayzata Transition School may move from a ‘mask required’ rule to ‘mask recommended’ if viral spread lessens locally.
Federal law requires students to wear masks on school buses at all times. Wayzata is not requiring mask wearing for any students during outdoor activities, including P.E. and sports practice.
“We’re very excited to be welcoming students back in about two weeks,” Anderson said. “We all recall last year being a very challenging year. We’re looking forward to moving into a new chapter.”
Among the challenges of last year was the shift between learning models mid-year. The start of the school year was delayed before opening with a hybrid model of in-person and distance learning. As virus activity increased, the district switched to distance learning only before coming back to in-person learning in the spring.
Anderson said the main goals of the mitigation plan is to keep students in-person throughout the year while keeping students and staff safe. Meanwhile the district will continue closely monitoring virus activity locally and nationally.
Blasberg described this year’s learning model - in the case of an outbreak - as ‘blended learning.’
“We need to realize the universal distance choice in the state is no longer an option,” he said. “There are blended learning options where students learn primarily in the building.”
The district can apply to the Minnesota Department of Education to implement a blended learning model but application or approval does not mean it has to put blended learning into practice. Blasberg said the hope is to not need any alternatives to in-person learning.
“As a district we really could use localized data to determine if these models need to be entered into,” he said.
Board member Sarah Johansen asked if there were mental health resources available for students as they continue to deal with the pandemic.
“All of our buildings do have a mental health professional working within the building,” said Jody Remsing, Director of Special Services.
The start of the meeting opened with public comment, which highlighted a mixture of support and opposition of the resolution. Three students of Wayzata schools spoke during this time; all in support of mandating masks in school.
“In my opinion, the mental health of students is based more on safety and the regular high school experience as opposed to a mask,” said Vennela Dupati, Junior Class President.
“As passionate as many adults or parents in our community are, one way or another, the bottom line is these decisions affect me as a student,” said Jack Ryan, Wayzata senior and Student Body President. “I’m one who’s going to be wearing a mask. I promise you, even if you’ve heard about it; even if you’ve seen it; unless you’re also a student you don’t understand what we went through.“