Minnesota districts prepare full-time, post-pandemic online learning programs

Many Minnesotans are getting used to a different way of doing things thanks to COVID-19 and some of those changes, like distance learning, will likely stick around post-pandemic.

Some school districts are making that an option for parents next school year. Many districts were considering it before the pandemic even started, and had to speed up their plans to make it happen during COVID-19. Ossea Area Schools were among them.

"I love it better than going into school," said Vivian Kruse, a student.

When Osseo announced they were launching a new permanent online program for all grades next year, Ramanda Kruse sent in an application for her two daughters right away.

"With COVID now, we’re experiencing their online platform and it’s been great for us," said Ramanda Kruse.

The added flexibility and less stress about dietary concerns sealed the deal for her.

Osseo Area Schools said about 650 applications have been received for the 2,000 available spots.

"We’re seeing anywhere from 30 to 40 at every grade level, K-12, that are interested in the program," said Anthony Padrnos, the executive director of technology at Osseo Area Schools.

Talks to open a full-time online school have been in the works in the district for years now, but the pandemic sped plans up and has given families a test run.

"I think the pandemic has also offered an opportunity for families to experience the good, bad and ugly of what learning remotely and online learning looks like," Padrnos said.

St. Paul Public Schools will offer a similar online-only school for grades K-12 next school year and Anoka-Hennepin will have that option for elementary students.

The Minnesota Department of Education must review districts’ full-time online learning plans. The Department says, since March, they’ve approved five applications, while 31 others are in the process.

"I think we’re all seeing varying degrees of families that even though online learning isn’t for everyone that some families are finding success and are interested in what this looks like and could mean for their families," said Padrnos.

Osseo Schools say they’ll be building the online school from the ground up by hiring teachers, administration staff and counselors specifically for the program.

The deadline to apply for the online school in Osseo is Jan. 15. Other districts expect to have more info in the coming months.