Dear AOWL Community,
Heading into this school year, we are once again at a critical point with COVID-19 as casescontinue to rise around the state. We are committed to using every tool available to keep ourstudents, clients, staff and families healthy and safe to ensure our students can continue to learn intheir classrooms.
Please read the following information about AOWL’s mitigation and preparedness plan for this year. We have learned a lot over the past year and we are ready to meet the challenges we face. We are committed to helping your family succeed every step of the way. Please reach out to us for any reason as we work together through this. Thank you for your continued trust and support.
Sincerely,Wyayn Rasmussen, Ed.D.
Current Hennepin County Transmission Rate: High
Students and Clients
Vaccines continue to be the most important tool we have against the virus. Our youngest students and clients can’t get vaccinated yet, so it is up to all of us to help protect them. Minnesotans ages 12 and older can find information on where to get a vaccine by visiting the state’s Vaccine Connector (vaccineconnector.mn.gov) or the federal Vaccine Finder (vaccines.gov). Additional information on vaccines and where you can get them can be found in the vaccine resources tab below.
Currently, all COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. have been approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for people 12-years old and older. Upon formal FDA approval of any COVID-19 vaccine, Academy of Whole Learning will add the COVID-19 vaccine to those already required for students.
Details regarding the timing and grace period of the vaccine requirement and how to report vaccinations, will be forthcoming. Exemptions may be requested for religious or medical reasons. In the interim, Academy of Whole Learning strongly encourages all eligible students to Get the Vax now.
Staff and faculty will confirm through an online attestation that:
- They are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and that they will get tested if they are exposed to someone who has COVID or if they experience symptoms; and
- If they receive a positive test result for COVID-19, they will follow CDC guidance, including isolating and participating in contact tracing efforts, and in return to work.
At least 3 feet of social distancing will be maintained as much as possible.
- When direct instruction or group work is best presented in a group situation, a 4-way acrylic shield will be placed in the center of the collaborative work space.
- Lower School, Middle School and High School will continue to use separately identified entrances and exits when entering or leaving the building for start/end of day or for recess/lunch.
- All students will walk in one direction along the sides of the hallway
- Lower School and Middle School students will not be in the hallway at the same time.
Students and Clients:
CDC does not currently recommend schools conduct symptom screening for students in grades K-12 on a routine (e.g., daily) basis.
- Parents, caregivers, or guardians (“caregivers”) are strongly encouraged to monitor their children for symptoms of infectious illness every day through home-based symptom screening.
- Students who are sick should not attend school in-person.
- Students who are well but who have a sick household member with COVID-19 should remain at home and follow CDC-recommended precautions. CDC recommends testing for people with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and for all close contacts of persons with COVID-19.
Staff: Staff who have symptoms should notify their supervisor and stay home. CDC recommends testing for people with any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and for all close contacts of persons with COVID-19.
- Staff who are sick with COVID-19 should isolate and follow CDC-recommended steps. Staff who are asymptomatic (have no symptoms) or pre-symptomatic (not yet showing symptoms) but have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 infection should also isolate and follow CDC-recommended steps.
- Staff should not return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with healthcare providers.
- Staff who are well but who have a sick household member with COVID-19 should notify their supervisor and follow CDC-recommended precautions.
- For symptomatic individuals: Testing positive: Individuals may return to school or clinic 10 days after symptoms began or when no longer symptomatic, whichever occurs last.
- Testing negative: individuals with mild symptoms may return to school and wear a mask until symptoms have fully resolved.
For individuals who have been exposed through close contact:
- Individuals should stay home and be tested 5-7 days after exposure. Individuals with negative results may return to school and/or clinic.
Clinic: For the safety of children 11 and under who are ineligible to be vaccinated, the Minnesota Department of Health requires all medical clinics to have staff and clients masked at all times. Masking breaks are built-in for clients who are in programming for more than 2 hours/day.
School: Until Lower School students have the opportunity to reach immunity through vaccination:
Lower School: Lower School students and staff will be required to wear masks at all times when inside the building. Masking breaks will be built into the schedule.
Middle and High School: When Hennepin County’s transmission rate is ‘high’ or ‘substantial’: Masks will be required for all students and staff at all times when students are in the building. Masking breaks will be built into the schedule.
When Hennepin County’s transmission rate is ‘moderate’. All staff and students will wear masks in common areas, ie. entryway, hallways, indoor gym, etc., when inside the building.
Vaccinated students may remove masks when seated in the classroom and able to maintain 3 feet of social distancing, or when working behind an acrylic desk shield at a collaborative work station.
- Students who have flu-like symptoms but have tested negative will be required to wear masks until symptoms have fully resolved.
- Staff may remove masks when able to maintain 3 feet of social distancing or when teaching behind an acrylic desk shield. Staff will wear masks when instruction requires personal instruction with less than 3 feet of social distancing.
When Hennepin County’s transmission rate is ‘low’: All staff and students will wear masks in common areas, ie. entryway, hallways, indoor gym, etc., when inside the building.
- Vaccinated students may remove masks in the classroom.
- Staff may remove masks in the classroom.
Adult Education: All staff and adult students will wear masks in common areas, ie. entryways, hallways, indoor gym, etc., when inside the building.
- Vaccinated students may remove masks in the classroom.
- Staff may remove masks in the classroom.
- Staff and adult students will follow the masking requirements of destinations visited.
Administration and Operations: All staff will wear masks in common areas, ie. entryway, hallways, indoor gym, etc., when inside the building.
- Staff may remove masks when seated in their offices or when students are not in the building.
- *Given the sensory needs of our students, in addition to any other underlying health conditions, students and staff may also utilize face shields as an alternative to cloth face masks. It is recommended that families have multiple mask options for students and wash them daily after use, in accordance with the guidelines set by the CDC and Minnesota Department of Health.
Assurance Testing: The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) have announced COVID-19 testing resources that will be available for schools this year. Our team is reviewing all of the options and working to determine what our local COVID-19 testing plan will look like. We will continue to share updates as plans come together over the next few weeks.
Based on current levels of community spread across Minnesota, the CDC and MDH recommend that all unvaccinated school-age children should get tested for COVID-19 at least weekly throughout the school year. Vaccinated students and school staff should get tested if they are experiencing symptoms or were exposed to someone who has COVID-19.
- Individuals with positive test results may return to school or clinic 10 days after symptoms began or when no longer symptomatic, whichever occurs last.
Asymptomatic Testing: AOWL requires testing five days after exposure for those who have been exposed to COVID-19 and are not showing symptoms
- Individuals with negative results may return to campus with a copy of their test results.
We look forward to sharing more soon about COVID-19 testing options that will be available at AOWL this school year.
A message from Katie Thormodsgaard, MSW, LICSW - Director of Clinical Services:
COVID-19 has created and will continue to create uncertainty that amplifies anxiety and elevated feelings. We can get through this, together. Here are some tips for well-being in the COVID-19 era:
- Keep an open dialogue. You may not have the answer for your child, but if you can keep the conversation going it will help with anxious feelings and thoughts. It is important that your child feels comfortable talking to you about their fears and worries.
- Limit television coverage, social media and news exposure. It can be alarming and there is a lot of misinformation. If you have an older child that researches on their own, discuss what they’ve seen or heard so you have an understanding of what they have been exposed to.
- You may feel elevated or anxious yourself. A key thing to remember is that anxiety feeds anxiety. It is important to talk to your child with confidence and not avoidance. The more you avoid the topic the more fearful your child may become.
- Doing calming strategies together is important. It will help you and your child return to baseline. Your child will feel more comfortable and confident if they see their parent engaging in the strategies. It is an activity that can become a habit and family focused.
“At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents.” Jane D H
Health & Safety
Your Family’s Role
- Stay home when sick.
- Be mindful of the following symptoms associated with Covid-19: fever at or greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, cough, shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
- Be aware of possible close contact exposure outside of school. The CDC defines close contact as being within 3 feet of a symptomatic person for more than 15 minutes cumulatively over a 24-hour period.
- Encourage frequent hand washing while at home, especially before and after eating, using shared objects around the house, and before and after going out into the community.
- Practice wearing a mask and social distancing in multiple settings.
- Teach respiratory etiquette such as sneezing and coughing into one’s elbow.
- Help your child to feel emotionally safe by listening to and validating how they are feeling.
AOWL’s Role - Maintaining Student and Staff Health
Cleaning: Physically removing germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects using soap (or detergent) and water or other cleaners.
Disinfecting: Kills germs on surfaces and objects using chemicals.
Social Distancing: Keeping 3 feet of space between yourself and other people outside of your home to reduce exposure from close contact with others.
The CDC defines exposure from close contact as being within 3 feet of an infected individual for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24 hour period.
Social Distancing: AOWL has implemented a number of social distancing measures that allow for 3 feet of physical distance among students and staff at all times. We’ve also modified spaces where social distancing in classrooms and other spaces is not possible with plexiglass barriers.
Hand washing and access to sanitizing stations: Students and staff will have scheduled times throughout their days for hand washing and sanitizing.
- Hand sanitizer stations are located at each entrance to use before entering the building and before leaving at the end of the day. Hand sanitizer will also be encouraged when hand washing is not possible.
- Hand washing routines built into the day, including times immediately before: eating, leaving the classroom, leaving the school, using shared classroom spaces.
- Hand washing routines built into the day, including times immediately after: eating, entering the classroom, using shared classroom spaces, using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing.
New cleaning/disinfecting procedures: AOWL has developed new cleaning and disinfecting routines to better protect the health and safety of our students and staff.
- 4x daily cleaning and disinfecting of all spaces in our building. Cleaning and disinfecting shared classroom spaces between each student's use.
- Use of a cleaning tool called an electrostatic sprayer, which enables more thorough disinfection of our spaces. Electrostatic sprayers work by charging disinfectants so that the droplets repel one another and actively seek out environmental surfaces, which they stick to and even wrap around to coat all sides.
- New disinfectant for use with the electrostatic sprayer which meets CDC and EPA criteria for use against COVID-19. This disinfectant is effective for up to 28 days after it is sprayed.
Hallway traffic modifications: All hallways in our building have been modified with “lanes” indicating the direction of traffic and enabling 3 feet of distance between students and staff passing in the halls. The hallways are also marked with visual cues for students to show distancing while transitioning as a group. Bathroomcapacity will be reduced to one student at a time. All bathrooms have been outfitted with a push light near their entrances, which students will turn on using their elbow, to indicate to other students that the bathroom is in use.
Outdoor learning: We will hold classes in outdoor learning spaces as often as possible. We have enabled dependable WiFi access for student devices while learning outdoors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How will we teach essential routines like hand washing, turning/off lights, opening doors, using the bathroom, etc.?
A: Through AOWL’s distinct, balanced approach that addresses academics, social, and life skills, our experienced staff is already equipped to teach essential life skills, specifically hygiene habits, through these unprecedented times. To ensure a safe environment, teaching staff will teach new essential routines based on CDC and MDH guidance. Teaching staff will demonstrate, offer time to practice, and give feedback in order to establish routines and continue to stress the importance to their students. Students will continue to practice these routines throughout the year.
Q: Why are we able to have a different plan than public schools?
A: One of the many extraordinary things about AOWL is our 4:1 student/teacher ratio. AOWL has a maximum of eight students and two teaching staff in a classroom, compared to MDE’s public school recommendation of 28 students for the same size classroom. The square footage per student at AOWL is approximately 500 square feet, compared to MDE’s public school recommendation of 100-150 square feet per student. AOWL has significantly more space for students to spread out and practice social distancing.
This specialized approach importantly distinguishes our school model from public school models. We are uniquely able to fully implement all of the Center for Disease Control recommendations in addition to our own supplemental precautionary measures.
Q: Have you had any COVID-19 spread on campus?
A: No. While we have had several isolated incidents of COVID-19, in each instance, we implemented our dynamic COVID-19 Safety and Preparedness Plan and successfully avoided any COVID-19 spread.
Q: When and how do we notify the school about whether we will be staying home?
A: Notify AOWL as soon as possible by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and your student’s homeroom teacher. Please include the reason for absence and any symptoms the student is experiencing. If the absence is COVID-19 related, please note that in the email to the office and your student's teacher.
Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
A: The following are symptoms that are associated with COVID-19, according to the CDC:
fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea. The symptoms associated with COVID-19 are subject to change. We will update this list periodically in accordance with CDC guidance.
Q: What testing options are available for COVID-19
Q: What should I do if I have more questions?
A: Please contact Wyayn Rasmussen, Executive Director, with any COVID-19 related questions. All questions are welcome!
- Minneapolis Health Department Vaccine Hub
- Minnesota Department of Health
- State of Minnesota’s Stay SafeMN site provides information regarding vaccine providers across the state. Find information in Mandarin, Spanish and other languages from the Minnesota Department of Health.
- M Health Fairview clinics and hospitals are offering vaccines.
- Call the Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Public Hotline at 1-833-431-2053 (9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays).