As coronavirus cases rise, Roseville school district shifts to distance learning

As Minnesota health officials report a large increase in coronavirus cases across the state, many schools are re-evaluating how they will conduct classes for the remainder of the year.

First grade teacher at Harambee Elementary School, Denise Dzik, explained it was hard returning to an empty classroom and getting back on Zoom with her students Monday morning after the Roseville School District quickly shifted into a distance learning model.

“It is sad especially because we were in a really good groove. and also, there was no closure as a group," she said.

Harambee made the immediate transition because of staff shortages brought on by the pandemic after a couple third graders recently tested positive for COVID-19

One of the reasons was because of close-contact quarantine rules. A handful of staffers working in the building were forced to stay home, leaving the Harambee Elementary School principal with no other choice but to shut it down.

“We wouldn’t have any gym or art. The staff that cover our lunch and recess, we’d be down that. It became quickly evident we’d have a real issue if we continued,” Principal Delon Smith said.

Because of the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community, the full Roseville School District is shifting to full distance learning on Nov. 16. 

In the meantime, Ms. Dzik is hoping to get her little students back at their desks just as soon as possible.

“The kids were like, ‘When are we coming back?’ I told them, ‘I don’t know, but I will let you know just as soon as I know.’”

Roseville had circled Nov. 9 to return fourth, fifth and sixth graders to their classrooms after starting the year at home as part of a “blended learning” plan, but that has been scuttled as well because of current pandemic conditions. 

“It’s super disappointing. We spent months putting a plan into place for how to keep kids safe, and that plan was working,” the principal said.

The district pointed out that COVID-19 rates for Ramsey County are projected to blow past 50 cases per 10,000 residents this week, and while the schools seem to be doing their part, those efforts sometimes fall short because of what’s happening out in the community.

“We need more people to follow the rules. They should come to first grade and learn how to follow the rules,” Ms. Dzik said.