MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s the first day back at school for the state’s largest district. Students and staff haven’t seen each other in person at Anoka-Hennepin schools since March.

A band greeted people at Champlin Park High School as students walked inside Tuesday, looking and feeling like the first day of school there even though these students have been learning for two weeks now.

Half of the students are there Tuesday and Wednesday, and the other half will be there Thursday and Friday, with Monday being the shared distance learning day.

WCCO got to check out one of the classrooms, where the first thing one would notice is how far the seats are spaced out. Also, everyone is wearing masks.

One classroom that presented a challenge was choir. Administrators had to get really creative with how they’d keep the ensemble together, but also keep the risks low. Half of the class is online, and half in-person. They actually have two teachers — again, one in person, one online. They’ll work together for some of class, and then they’ll split off into in-person learning and fully online learning.

Principal Mike George, whose daughter is in the choir class, says he saw the evolution from panic over the pandemic to distance learning to hybrid learning, happening from different perspectives.

“Last spring was a challenge with the structure,” George said. “And we wanted to provide more structure with still an opportunity for flexibility with students. And the feedback from the families and certainly the feedback from our students has been it’s good to kind of do school again to a degree … have some structure in their lives and have a routine.”

Some faculty, for health reasons, are working from home, despite students being in their classroom.

“In our building we have several handfuls of staff who are working remotely, which again ultimately has worked well for us because we were able to assign some people to supervise the class,” George said.

George says this hybrid model was designed to keep everything agile. The curriculum matches, whether online or in person.

“If a student is having symptoms or not feeling well, they can choose to stay home on the day they’re assigned to come on on hybrid and as long as they’re logging in virtually through the google classroom, they’re considered in attendance,” he said.

The nature of the pandemic means even the most thought-out plans will keep evolving. As superintendent of the state’s largest district, David Law makes decisions affecting families from Brooklyn Park, to Ham Lake, to Dayton.

“Those communities see completely different things and we have one message for all of them. So we’re trying to be nimble locally and at the same time offer consistency,” Law said.

WCCO spoke with some students who said it’s just good to see people their own age again.

“I feel like I had to come back to school to get the experience in,” Maya Alexander said.

But that does come with another challenge in shared areas, like the cafeteria. That room has designated seating, and constant cleaning. That speaks to how much time was spent getting ready for this year, and how much money. George said he was really grateful for the funding they were able to get to make everything happen.

The school also notes that flexibility allows for the entire school to transition back into distance learning if need be. It also lets students who need to quarantine log into class remotely.

“Ultimately everyone’s doing their best so I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and I’m just glad I can get out of the house after months of being at home,” senior Amanda Eidem said.

Christiane Cordero

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