July 31, 2020
Dear DeLaSalle Community,
As always, we begin with prayer and hope that you and your family are healthy and well. We are writing to share an update as we move into the final stages of our summer-long planning for the 2020-21 school year. We reiterate our commitment to protect the physical and social-emotional health and well-being of our students and staff as we refine the working models for conducting school this fall. We will care about your child’s heart, spirit, and mind as the centerpiece of our work. We will prepare all students throughout this year for their next level of education. Inspired by the resolve and wisdom offered by so many in our community, we will continue to respond to each other with kindness and care. Together, we will meet the challenges of this most unique year — as DeLaSalle always has.
Like many of you, we watched yesterday afternoon as Governor Walz and his administration released guidance for how Minnesota schools may resume this fall. As we have done throughout this pandemic, we continue to update and align our planning based on current conditions, public health guidance, and community feedback. Since March, we have also adapted our method of instruction in response to evolving trends in this pandemic.
DeLaSalle will begin the school year Monday, August 31 with a hybrid model of instruction that combines a mix of in-person and distance learning for most students, with full distance learning available each day for students who need or prefer that model. We believe this hybrid model best accomplishes our goals: educating students with high expectations for both their holistic well-being and their academic preparation; addressing the needs and concerns identified by our families and staff; and offering our students and staff opportunities for on-campus community. Today and into early next week, the administrators, faculty, staff, and trustees who serve on our Instructional Design and Pandemic Operations teams are finalizing the specific details of how we will implement this model. We will communicate updates over the next two weeks, and we thank you for your continued patience as these groups conclude their work.
Our successful implementation of two programs this summer demonstrates the effectiveness of our approach to hybrid learning. More than 140 ninth graders, led by 50 juniors and seniors on the Islander Welcome Crew and many staff, chose to participate voluntarily in our inaugural Summer Bridging Academy program to get to know each other and enhance their academic skills prior to the start of the school year. We have followed the protocols of the Minnesota Department of Health by checking the temperature of each participant upon arrival, practicing proper physical distancing of six feet, wearing masks or face shields, and practicing good hygiene. Throughout the program, some students have connected virtually from home while others participate on campus, as current DeLaSalle teachers lead academic skills courses and use enhanced technology we also will use for the school year. These measures, which reflect MDH guidance, helped to ensure a safe environment and mitigated further transmission of COVID-19 when one student in the program tested positive for the coronavirus. Because of the measures we had in place, no other program participants were considered by MDH to be a close contact requiring contact tracing, and no other participants reported symptoms or a positive test. The student who did report is healthier today while remaining in quarantine for a 14-day period.
Coaches and students in our athletic programs have followed the same health protocols as they have participated since mid-June in summer training on campus. Those athletes, their families, and DeLaSalle now await further direction about the fall sports season from the Minnesota State High School League, whose board of directors will meet on Tuesday, August 4. (As of this writing, all Minnesota high schools are still preparing for the first day of fall sports practices on Monday, August 17.)
We are grateful for all of you. Thank you to the many students, parents, and staff who have provided thoughtful perspectives through virtual listening sessions or surveys. (Well over 450 households have responded to our parent survey to date.) Your comments and questions continue to inform our planning. We invite parents to provide additional input during our next two virtual listening sessions on Thursday, August 6, and Thursday, August 20, each day from 5:00-5:45pm via Zoom. Please use this form to share any questions you would like us to address in the listening sessions.
In addition to those listening sessions, we will communicate again with you over the next two weeks and will continue to provide specific details about how you and your family can successfully plan for the start of school. We are grateful for your partnership and belief in our mission as we embark on our 121st year of education on Nicollet Island.
Live Jesus in our hearts … Forever!
Bryan E. Bass, EdD