Belle Plaine Public Schools are making their final preparations for the class of 2020 graduation set for this Friday, May 22.
The ceremonial procession, a map of which is included in this edition of the Herald on page 9, will lead students and parents to the Belle Plaine Athletic Complex where students will receive their diplomas.
The district initially planned to live stream the event to their Tiger TV YouTube channel, but a lack of strong internet may force them to record the event and later upload the video, according to Belle Plaine Superintendent Ryan Laager, who remains hopeful that some remote internet solution can be found.
Additionally, the district plans to enlist KCHK, the FM radio station in New Prague, for a radio and web broadcast of the event.
The event is set to kick off at 5 p.m. on Friday. Leaders from Belle Plaine schools, city and police department have all echoed sentiments urging attendees to stay in their vehicles and practice social distancing to ensure the ceremony is within state guidelines.
The district anticipates most seniors will participate.
Belle Plaine Ponders
Late Summer Programming
On May 15, the Minnesota Department of Education released their summer programming guidelines for schools, which will allow in-person summer programming to start at the end of schools' traditional school year, although the MDE recommends such programming begin in late June.
Under the guidelines, schools can choose to continue offering distance learning, or offer some form of hybrid programming. One restriction under the hybrid model would be that districts like Belle Plaine would be required to alternate in-person sessions.
Summer school in Belle Plaine will likely kick off later this summer as the district gauges what parents and students feel comfortable and safe engaging with.
Laager also added that he and Activities Director John Bergs are exploring options for summer activities. Such activities would be limited to nine students per session.
2020-21 School Year
Looking ahead, Laager anticipates some students in the district, particularly those with preexisting medical conditions, may choose not to return to in-person school in the summer or the fall. Kindergarten class sizes are the most likely to be unpredictable for next year, in Belle Plaine and throughout the state, Laager said.
"We know that we're going to have some students who don't want to come back in general (due to fear of the coronavirus)," Laager said, "so we want to make sure we have programming ready for them."
The district will likely revisit funding regarding staffing based on anticipated kindergarten and other class sizes at their August retreat.
As the Minnesota State Fair is likely to be canceled, district leaders are also pondering starting next school year earlier than scheduled. Schools in Missouri have recently been given the option to begin up to 14 days before Labor Day. Laager said that he will look into a state waiver that will allow Belle Plaine to start on a similar timeline.
"We should be filling out that waiver for sure," Laager said. "If you can do that, that's a huge advantage."
Such a schedule shift would involve input from the public and the Belle Plaine teachers' union.