Response: Remote learning return is opposed

·4 min read

Jan. 17—The Free Press

A majority of area respondents oppose school districts returning to remote learning even as COVID-19 cases are on the rise, according to a Free Press online question.

Out of 350 total respondents, 189 voters opposed schools returning to remote learning. Another 161 voters supported the idea.

Several school districts in the area are temporarily canceling classes, bringing back mask requirements or holding remote learning in light of rampant COVID-19 and flu cases, along with other illnesses.

Classes in Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Public Schools were canceled Friday and Monday.

St. Peter Public Schools had a distance learning day Thursday, followed by already planned no-school days Friday and Monday. Supt. Bill Gronseth said in an announcement Wednesday he hoped the extended break would "curb the rapid spread" of COVID-19 among district students and staff.

The district reported 54 active cases among students and 11 among staff as of Wednesday. More than 30 of the cases were at the high school.

Another 59 students but no staff were absent Wednesday while in quarantine, according to data on the district's website.

Mankato Area Public Schools sent a letter to parents Thursday telling them to be prepared for the potential need to switch to distance learning.

The letter indicated the district is not considering a districtwide closure but could move individual schools or classes to remote learning.

The notice lists "two situations that may necessitate" a switch: "If a school has a significant number of teachers absent or if there are three or more positive cases in a classroom."

Mankato Area Public Schools reported 379 new cases among its students and staff Jan. 7-13. That is by far a weekly record.

Several school districts in the Twin Cities and Rochester Public Schools have or are moving to remote learning for longer terms.

The Free Press online question, sent out Friday, asked, "With COVID-19 cases among children on the rise, do you support school districts returning to remote learning?"

There were two options to answer, "yes" or "no."

Online commenters were split on the idea. Proponents said they supported remote learning to cut down on the spread of COVID and other illnesses, though many acknowledged keeping in-school learning is ideal. Those opposed to remote learning expressed concerns over potential lagging in educational and social lessons.

"I support it only for a short time if it is impossible to have the necessary number of staff in the schools," Richard Wheeler wrote. "It should be in person if at all possible."

Gary Lindsay wrote, "The latest variant, omicron, is not very deadly. Require masks. Otherwise these kids will not learn what they should."

"The students have already lost more than a year of real education and are falling further with each distance learning implementation," Jerry Groebner wrote. "A large number of students never or seldom log into their online classes and are the losers in this disaster. Millions of dollars were given to school districts to prepare for safely conducting in-person learning with better ventilation or other improvements that were believed to be needed. If the district did not use the dollars for those improvements it is the district's fault. The teachers have also had to deal with some distance learning and some in-person teaching. It isn't fair to them either."

Barbara Keating wrote, "Give families a choice: Vaccinated students willing to wear masks and follow precautions should be allowed to return to in-person classes. The nonvaccinated and those not wanting to return can be put into separate, distance learning classes and parents given online learning support."

Nancy Zwickey wrote, "There is no way to make schools safe when masking is optional. Individuals can have had the shots and boosters and still contract and die from COVID. They can carry the virus without exhibiting symptoms. If the schools had everyone wearing good masks over their nose and mouth they could probably have in-school classes."

"No question that face to face is best, not only for students, and frustrated parents as well," Dave Johnson wrote. "But, rotating class members, teachers constant reviewing/repeating learning materials leads me to believe that stifling the spread with remote learning, and getting everyone back after breaking the spread, including vaccines and boosters, is a very logical solution."