Concerns regarding a student-selected fundraising activity were brought to the attention of the Pierz School Board at the recent February meeting and the Morrison County Record published a story presenting their opinion of the events. The survey, and subsequent Morrison County article, caused concern among students and staff. The information below provides answers to questions surrounding that event. Much of this information was sent to the Morrison County Record as well, but did not make the published story. The full list of questions and a sample student report were also provided and can be found here along with survey questions from previous years.
Hello everyone! We are overjoyed to finally get back to a normal year and back to concerts, performances, and other fun activities. In October, we had our first concert of the year, Epic Adventures, and this month we look forward to your continued support as we present our holiday concerts on December 7, 9, and 13.
Our jazz ensembles have also been very busy this fall. Our Jazz I ensemble has been working on Christmas music to perform at the Pierz Senior Center on December 16th at 3:30 PM. Our Jazz II ensemble will be performing at the December 7th concert as well. Both jazz ensembles will be performing at our Annual Jazz Night on April 29th—mark that date in your calendar now!
With sporting events opening back up to the public, the pep band will be attending more games to support our Pioneer Athletics. We had a blast playing at Football and Volleyball games this fall and look forward to our first Winter Pep Band at the Girls Basketball game on December 16th. We will also be at the December 21st Boys Basketball game before Christmas Break.
Another exciting event we have coming up this year is our band and choir trip to San Antonio. We will depart by plane on January 22nd and will return on the 26th. Some of our planned activities are a River Canal Cruise, Six Flags, and a trip to the Enchanted Springs Ranch and Corpus Christi beach. We will also be performing at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.
We have a great group of officers leading our band this year. Caleb Kuske is our Vice President, Lynn Skiba is our secretary, and Lance Otremba is our treasurer. We also elected Alyssa Thesing as our official photographer.
It’s an exciting time to be a Pioneer. Thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you at our concerts and athletic events: Go Pioneers!
—Kiara Olesch, Band President
Parent Information on Covid Protocols
Minnesota Department of Education has determined that the decisions regarding Covid Protocols and Distance Learning are to be made at the local School Board level this coming school year, as opposed to the Statewide Rulemaking that was implemented last year, with the exception of School Busing.
Masks will not be required in District 484 buildings. The district and staff are very supportive of those who choose to wear one. We support and accept all who choose to wear a mask in our schools and on our properties. Bullying of any person for reasons of mask wearing will be dealt with under the district’s bullying policy.
Close Contact Quarantine
The District will not be removing students or staff from school based upon close contacts with positive COVID-19 cases. Schools MUST report positive test results in accordance with MN Rule 4605.7070 (called Red Cap report) and require we report a case, name, grade, etc.
Parents will be notified via email if your child is considered a close contact of a confirmed case of Covid-19 among the students or adults working with your child.
Parents are provided this information so they can determine the best decision for their child and family.
Excused and unexcused absences will be managed using existing school policies. Covid related absences will be considered school excused.
Parents please do not send a child to school who is showing any signs of respiratory illness, coughing, sinus infection, etc. The school will be sending students home who present illness. Students are welcome back at school once their symptoms subside.
Student process as related to Positive Covid Cases
What are we required to do with a positive case of Covid?
a) That case must be reported to MDH.
b) Student must isolate for 10 days and return on day 11.
Student work will be provided to all children while they are home.
Loss of Taste and Smell is an almost universal indicator of Covid;
Therefore, when a student reports loss of taste and smell, it will be treated as a positive case of Covid, with the exception that a confirmed negative test, within the recommended testing time frame, would result in the student being allowed to return to school immediately.
Requirements for Students who are living within the same household of a student who has tested positive for Covid. Parent is advised to contact the school nurse to review the expectations.
-If the student is vaccinated, they may attend school unless they are showing symptoms of Covid, then they follow all current student illness protocols as outlined in the School Health Policy.
-Or, if a student is not vaccinated, and is symptom free for 5 days after exposure from a household positive, and the student then tests negative, they may return to school on day 8.
-Or, if a student tests negative, but has symptoms, review School Health Policy.
-Or, if a student does not produce a negative test, then they may return to school on day 11 of being symptom free.
Student work will be provided to all children while they are home.
Update on Busing
Public School Transportation is considered under the umbrella of all Public Transportation and not under the jurisdiction of MN Dept of Education. Therefore, MDE is not able to transfer that authority to local School Boards. Masks are still required on Public Transportation including all school bus routes. This is a Federal mandate we and every other school in Minnesota, private or public, is required to implement.
Pierz is adding another bus route to create more convenience for our students.
Our In-Town policy will change from last year. We will pick up students on the west side of Main Street this year, as well as pick up children at the licensed day care providers east of main street. Health experts highly encourage walking to school. It is a great way to get the brain ready for learning.
Bus routes are being developed right now and the Bus Route Drivers will be contacting parents later next week (those first few dates in September) to verify pick up and drop off times. As always, these are estimates as our routes change daily based upon preschool schedules and other factors. Parents and children should be ready 3 to 5 minutes prior to the pick up time.
Pioneer Elementary staff will walk students across Park Avenue and Kamnic Street after school.
Parent Drop Off Information
Students in grades PK-6 can be dropped off by door 20 of Pioneer, the “Student drop off/ pick up” door, between 7:30am and 8:15am. Students who wish to eat breakfast should arrive by 8:00am.
Students in grades 7-12 can enter door 7 (behind Healy) or door 3 (front of Healy) starting at 7:30am. Door 3 is the bus drop off point, if you as a parent are dropping off , please pull up to door 2 to avoid the busses.
Click here for a map of parking lots and where to drop off and pick up students.
End of day student pick up will be similar to last year. Parents will use the Remind app to notify staff when they arrive.
After reviewing the new recommendations this week from the CDC and MDE, the school board discussed our fall policy at their meeting on Wednesday. At this time, Pierz Schools will not be requiring masks for students or staff at any grade level this coming school year.
We will continue to be vigilant in our sanitizing and have invested in upgrades to our air quality standards.
We support any students or staff who prefer to wear a mask.
We are excited that MDE has approved the plan we presented to bring students back to school!
We are optimistic as we make these changes—not because the challenges are gone, but because we have some experience and have a stronger sense of what we are up against, how to react, and how not to react to various situations.
We have to assume that the absence of students and staff through new cases and contact tracing will be our most important challenge and most likely the biggest cause of frustration. Covid is not gone. The rules of contact tracing are still the same. Our vigilance to social distancing, reminding students, podding students, and implementing the highest levels of care is as critical in the next month as ever.
It is not a matter of if it happens; rather, it is a matter of how many are forced to leave with each positive case. This is the conversation we need to have with students. It is their team, or their concert, or their friends. The end goal is having school and every event with everyone there.
With that said, here is the return-to-school plan for Pierz Schools:
Dates to note:
Monday, January 11 - Move to Hybrid grades 5-12
Monday, January 18 - In-person, grades 5, 6, 10, 11, 12
Friday, January 22-25 - per current calendar year, these are non student days (PS-12)
Tuesday, January 26 - Preschool returns. PS-4 in person, grades 5-12 no school
Monday, February 1 - In-person, grades 7, 8, 9 (all students PS-12 are in person!)
To further explain our rationale:
We received a waiver on our appeal for starting hybrid Jan. 11. That waiver allowed us to by-pass the state proclamation that schools can only start bringing students back three grades at a time beginning January 18. However, the "three grades at a time" rule made it impossible for us to just be all in-person at the start of the 2nd semester. We were then faced with the issue of having to wait two weeks from whenever we start bringing students back.
—George Weber, Superintendent, Pierz Schools
Students in grades kindergarten through grade 4 will continue with in school learning as they have been. There won’t be any changes to classrooms and teachers until at least the end of the semester on January 22. Pending continued decreases in Covid cases in the school, community and county, we would like to bring preschool back to school at that time, on Tuesday, January 26th.
Students in grades 5-12 will return to a hybrid model where they attend 2 days a week in person and 3 days at home. The schedule will be Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday as assigned in November. If unsure what days your student should attend, students in grades 7-12 can find it in Synergy under student information. Students in grades 5 or 6 can check with their teacher. Attendance in person is required for these school days scheduled in person. Please be sure to contact the office on the days when your student needs to be absent and if it is health related, contact the nurse. You can use the Covid reporting form.
With so many changes in who will be attending in person or at home, we need to start fresh with a new meals survey. If your student is remaining in distance learning, you can still pick up bundled meals for them. Pick up will be Monday and Wednesday from 4:30-5:30 at the MAC door (door 22). You do need to complete a new survey.
Students who are in grades 7-12 are sent a survey each morning they are in the building to ask if they want salad for lunch and a to go meal. Remind your 7-12 students to complete it. You do not need to complete the new meal survey.
Students in grades 5 and 6 will be given a meal at the end of their day here for their next day of at home learning. You do not need to complete the new meal survey.
For students in grades 5 and 6 who need childcare on the days they are not in school, you can email Sarah Funk. Priority will be given to those with both parents classified as essential workers. If your student is currently attending childcare, you should have received an email about scheduling.
While we are excited to bring students into the building for learning, we still are challenged with how to get them here and back home. The rules for contact tracing have not changed; anyone within 6 feet of someone for more than 15 minutes who tests positive is considered exposed and will need to stay home from school. That said, the more parents who can drive their students, the less risk those students will be to being contact traced. Thank you for your continued support.
The announcements from the Minnesota Department of Education that were sent out late in the day on Wednesday, December 16th created many questions for schools throughout Minnesota.
It looked like there were some hard and fast rules regarding bringing students back “only” after January 18th and only in groups of three grades at a time every two weeks.
By Friday morning it looked like there may be some options for certain districts to make the case that there were plans in place for a more aggressive move back than that. Pierz drafted an appeal trying to make that case and we are fortunate that they have allowed some degree of flexibility.
We were approved to go to hybrid already on January 11th and allowed to do all of grades 5-12 at once rather than the “rolling start” model proposed by MDE. In addition, we do not need the minimum two days off/transition days that are also part of that proposal.
There are a number of other changes that are outlined in the latest guidance documents that we are evaluating to determine what we specifically must do. If any of you have looked into all of it, please be assured we will evaluate those that we consider to be, “too much of a change” from what we had been doing, if what we had been doing is working well in terms of staff and student safety.
For now, we want to assure you that we are not going to expect children to make dramatic changes to how we are operating our schools right now. Most of the new updates impact staff and not students, so we will analyze those internally to determine our expectations.
It is important that families continue to communicate with the school nurse about illnesses, symptoms and positive cases as we enter the new year. As we look to return students to the building, the nurse will coordinate the return date for students and staff to ensure risks of spread and exposure are minimal. You can complete this quick and easy form and the nurse will be in touch with you.
January 4-8: Students in grades K-4 will attend every day. Students in grades 5-12 will attend via Distance Learning. Students in grades 5 and 6 who were attending child care will attend child care. If you no longer need child care, please email Sarah Funk or let your classroom teacher know the student will be learning from home. Preschool students will not attend yet.
January 11-15: Students in grades K-4 will attend every day. Students in grades 5-12 will attend on a hybrid schedule of Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday. Students in grades 5 and 6 who were attending childcare on their distant learning day will attend child care. If you no longer need child care, please email Sarah Funk or let your classroom teacher know the student will be learning from home. Preschool students will not attend yet.
Busing: Busing continues to pose the greatest challenge for us to maintain the required distance to remove the risk of close contacts. We are so thankful for the parents who are willing to drive their students to and from school to relieve pressure on the bus capacity. Data shows that more students are traced as a close contact on the bus than in the classroom; if you can provide your students with a ride to and/or from school, it is greatly appreciated.
Meals: We will continue to provide meals for students who are learning from home. During the week of January 4th, we will use the survey requests that families submitted in November when we initially moved into Distance Learning for grades 5-12. We understand there were concerns on sending students prior to the holidays, so it is important we start fresh with new information regarding meals.
Whatever you can do to assist in having your child take a meal is very appreciated.
Please complete a new survey prior to January 11th as you determine which of your children will return to school and which students will continue to learn from home. We are asking every family to complete a new meal survey, all previous requests will be disregarded. This will be on the website the first week of January.
Our schools have had an interesting week as we have discussed and considered how we could start to bring back some of the students who have been in Distance Learning since early November. This is a very emotional issue for parents that see the frustration and sadness in their child who feels deprived of their normal school experience or might be struggling academically or emotionally.
Our staff, many of whom have their own children in the district, also feel this deep frustration and would do most anything to take that away. Our teachers have done amazing activities in some of the most challenging classes to teach online or maintain social distance, yet have achieved good experiences and positive results for our students.
Through the year, Pierz Schools has looked at our data, our challenges, and we are constantly trying to find every avenue possible to deliver this school experience that we know the students want.
In some respects, it seems that our willingness to constantly evaluate the data and even push past the recommendations of MDH has created some waves one way or the other. I do not believe there is another school bordering Pierz currently that is bringing in any K-12 children. Our staff, board and community has always taken some degree of pride in trying to do whatever we can to push success in our schools and community, regardless of what the “mainstream” might be doing. We have brought in K-4 children every day even when our county ratio was over 200. Right or wrong, we have pushed it. It is very easy for me to say we have more employees at every level putting in more hours and taking on additional duties than ever.
Our data is getting better. November was exceedingly challenging for many in our community as our local data became extremely high. Even with our current drop in local Covid cases, the Pierz zip code still has one of the higher ratios in our county.
We understand we might be taking some degree of risk, when compared to what others are doing, yet are willing to consider the value in providing some days of in-person learning for students prior to the holiday break. There are opinions on that idea from all sides. It is a credit to our staff and board to even consider it right now. As we work through the details of how we can do this, we have made it clear we will honor the parent choice of not sending their children to school prior to the holidays if they are concerned about exposure.
As stated in our parent call Thursday night, we are planning on bringing students back in some format. We will confirm the plan on Monday after another review of the latest Covid data and numbers. We are confident and hoping we can do something now. I understand there are already concerns about what happens after that. It is clear the Department of Health and Department of Education does not want schools in Distance Learning to come back in person or hybrid right after the holidays. Morrison County Public Health has also expressed caution that schools should evaluate the impact of potential holiday gatherings on Covid rates, prior to bringing students back to school. So we have that challenge. Again, it appears no district around us is going to move out of distance learning until later in January. We assume we can stay in our current model of having K-4 children learn in person.
We know most anything we do that falls short of bringing in all children every day will be seen and heard and felt as disappointing. I guarantee all of you that our staff and teachers would love that more than anyone. This world of hybrid teaching is turning out to be harder on staff and students than anyone imagined. We want what parents want. The challenges are 'how' and 'when'.
We truly appreciate the extraordinary help from parents and staff and all community members who are pitching in to care for children and support children throughout this whole journey. Thank you.
As we created the plan to provide meals to families during distance learning, we tried to create better options to increase accessibility. We hope families with students distance learning will sign up for the free meals provided. Funding for cooks, food, etc. is contingent upon daily meals served so we are providing several options.
For PS and students in grades 5-12 who have siblings in grades K - 4, we will be automatically sending meals home. The survey will ask if there are K-4 siblings so we can cross reference our list. Your preschooler and 5th-12th grade students will receive meals. For all other students, you can complete the survey and indicate whether a morning pick up or an afternoon pickup will work better for you. We will also be packaging meals for 5 days together into 3 and 2 days so you don’t need to make a daily trip. Specific questions or to request meal send an email to email@example.com
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