Districts pursued partnership because of state rules
Online schooling will be an option for St. Louis Park students this school year, but teachers will instead be from the Eden Prairie School District.
Last year, the St. Louis Park School District offered online education with its own teachers – some who took on the challenge of teaching students in front of them and virtually at the same time.
The Association of Metropolitan School Districts has sought to convince lawmakers to allow all districts to continue offering the same distance learning programs as last year, but lawmakers failed to come to an agreement to allow to these programs to stay.
A Minnesota Department of Education document dated August 6 states that districts that wish to provide online education to students for more than half of the student’s weekly schedule must seek interim state approval in as an e-learning provider.
Some districts, like Eden Prairie Schools, have hired additional staff to become a state-approved online education provider.
“Smaller districts like St. Louis Park need to find other creative ways to continue to ensure that students and families who want to learn online have access to it,” said the St. Louis Park School District Superintendent, Astein Osei, at a school board meeting in August. . ten.
Although he said state rules would have allowed the district to offer students a mix of in-person and online learning using its own staff, the superintendent said families in St. Louis Park who were looking for an option online were concerned about the pandemic and did not want their children to have to attend school in person every week.
After exploring relationships with a variety of potential online school providers, Osei said St. Louis Park administrators felt better about Eden Prairie Schools’ EP Online system.
The two districts are seeking a deal that would ensure schools in Eden Prairie receive funding for the services they have provided, while public schools in St. Louis Park continue to offer special education and counseling services. The St. Louis Park District is considering creating a classroom experience or advisory role to connect its students online with St. Louis Park staff “so that throughout this process that student knows. that there are always staff here who look after them, support them and keep them. them connected to our school district, ”Osei said.
Recognizing the risk that online students may leave the St. Louis Park School District in the future, Osei added: Connections and supports for our students who choose this option online.
The District of St. Louis Park is seeking to “build an exit ramp” with schools in Eden Prairie so that families in St. Louis Park using EP Online can send their children to school in person if COVID-conditions occur. 19 are improving, according to Osei.
He noted that both districts have a Spanish immersion school. EP Online will offer instruction in Spanish for Kindergarten and Grade 1 this school year, but currently there are not enough students enrolled to offer instruction in Spanish for grades 2 to 6. Osei said the district will determine how to meet the needs of Park Spanish Immersion Elementary School students in classes who want an online experience once authorities determine the number of families involved.
St. Louis Park School Board President Mary Tomback noted that last year the state required districts to offer online education.
Given the state’s rules for this school year, Tomback said, “What you’re doing now through this plan, in this program with Eden Prairie, is to try to provide our families who really think it’s is the best option for their students with some option to continue to get involved in St. Louis Park schools, but to keep their children in the distance learning environment if they think that’s what. there is better.
“There are several families who are very concerned about what is going on and are not comfortable sending their children in person to school at this time,” Osei said.
Board member Anne Casey noted that Intermediate District 287, a consortium of western metro districts that includes St. Louis Park and Eden Prairie, offers an online program called Northern Star Online. However, all classes are considered asynchronous, which means that students are not learning live from a teacher at the same time as other students. As a result, Casey said the system is better for students taking one or two courses rather than taking full-time.
Osei said St. Louis park officials had several conversations with staff at Middle District 287 about the Northern Star Online system, but agreed that it was not suitable for students taking full-time online courses. .
In contrast, he said that EP Online offers both live and asynchronous experiences, with younger students receiving the most live instruction.
“EP Online for K-5 grades offers live, online interaction with teachers every day,” according to the St. Louis Park School District website, slpschools.org. “Students in Grades 6 to 12 will experience a mixed model of live instruction and independent work that provides greater flexibility for students. “
The district planned to notify families of the EP Online option by August 20.
Eden Prairie Schools is offering a webinar on the program with Principal Raymond Diaz at 2:30 p.m. on August 26. One description lists Eden Prairie Schools as “the premier school district in Minnesota” and notes that the district hires, trains, and retains teachers for PE Online.
The description reads: “EP Online offers a one-of-a-kind online experience where students can learn with a teacher live almost every school day. Say goodbye to the isolation of online learning and experience the EP Online advantage.
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