Sartell School District moves pre k-5th grade to distant learning

Students and staff prepare to move to distance learning in Sartell. Photo credit:

Written by: Elaina Mihalik

Sartell made the decision to move the pre-k through 5th grade classes to distant learning on Monday, Nov. 16, due to a rise in COVID-19 cases.

According to an announcement on the district’s website, Sartell has reversed this decision for grades 6th-12th as COVID-19 cases are generally low for these students and teachers. They are still hosting in person classes for these grades.

This decision came after a spike in COVID-19 cases in the community. They are concerned about everyone’s safety. The Sartell district is struggling to keep the school staffed because a lot of teachers are out due to COVID-19.

“We can have school if I have teachers and I’m down 40% of my kids,” Jeff Schwiebert, the superintendent for the Sartell school district, said. “We can still have school. However, if I’m down 40% of my staff, it’s very difficult to keep school in session as a result of that.”

Schwiebert goes on to mention that they are not down 40% of staff, but it is over 20%.

The district hopes that decision does not impact students long term. They hope that being better prepared for distant learning will help that.

This is not the first time that this school district went to distant learning. They are hoping to do it better this time.

“We did a lot of work over the summer, to make sure when this day happens again, we’re prepared for it,” said Schwiebert. “I think we’ll do a better job than last spring.”

Schwiebert believes the parents are a major factor in the success for students in distant learning. He understands how difficult this can be for them and he is appreciative of the support parents show for their children and the school.

The other major reason that the Sartell school district believes that they will be successful at distant learning is because of the technology they offer. Every child in 8th grade and under has access to iPads. The students in 9th grade and up have MacBooks to work from. This helps students keep on top of their schoolwork during this time.

This decision also impacts the community.

“As for my opinion on the transitioning to online learning, I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for the students, staff and parents of these local school districts.” shared Isaiah Okongo, who has lived in Sartell area for many years.

Okongo graduated from Sauk Rapids-Rice High School and says he still knows students in high school. He cannot imagine how difficult it is for them right now.

“I hope they will be able to return to in-person learning as soon as possible,” shared Okongo.

The district is moving to distant learning until Dec. 4 and will decide sometime around then if they plan to return to in person classes or not.

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