THE HENTON HEADLINES
June 24, 2021
Here’s the scoop for the week
Philosophical differences between parties leads to absence of language regarding Distance Learning in tentative E-12 agreement so now what?
Leading up to the special legislative session, both the House and Senate had language in bills regarding Distance Learning. The Conference Committee discussions did not produce agreement between the bills and the tentative E-12 Omnibus bill does not address Distance Learning in any fashion.
In discussion with Commissioner Heather Mueller on Monday, she acknowledged that there were philosophical differences between the two Houses that led to no agreement on Distance Learning and that MDE has been having near daily discussions about Distance Learning for weeks. She stated what we know: that some school districts want to be able to offer Distance Learning programs as they have last year without being approved as an online provider. Commissioner Mueller said that within 1-2 weeks there will be direction from MDE for those school districts who want to offer Distance Learning to in-district students during the 2021-2022 school year. She noted that MDE is working to develop something that is “...within the spirit of the law.”
Here is what you are already able to do with Distance Learning/Blended Learning. A number of school districts plan to use this guidance moving forward and a number have already used this in the past-pre-pandemic. Where this is in use, or planned to be next year, those school districts have designed blended courses where students are online the majority of the time and in person one day, or one class period per week depending on grade level.
Commissioner Mueller said MDE will be using the Blended Learning model guidance and the application to become an online learning provider to develop what might be used for school districts wanting to voluntarily offer a Distance Learning program in 2021-2022. Again, we were told that information about what MDE plans to develop should be released in 1-2 weeks and will be within the spirit of existing law.
As of this writing, there has been no discussion with legislators, or with MDE about a mandated Distance Learning program for all school districts as was required via Governor Walz’s Executive Order during the 2020-2021 school year. All discussions to date with Conference Committee Chairs Jim Davnie and Roger Chamberlain, along with Commissioner Heather Mueller, have been around voluntary programs where school districts make local decisions about whether or not to offer Distance Learning.
Manahoy Area School Dist. v. B.L.: Significant Supreme Court decision:
This case involves a student who was suspended for using vulgar speech and symbols on Snapchat following her school’s decision not to place her on a varsity cheerleading team. The student was suspended for a year for her actions. The Supreme Court decision indicated the suspension was a violation of the girl's right to free speech.
There will be more information to come surrounding this case as it has reached national prominence given the potential effects for school districts dealing with students posting vulgarity online that has some connection to the school. I advise you to stay tuned in the days ahead to learn more about how this case might impact similar situations moving forward.
A little summer fun from retired Superintendent Jerry Ness who continues, without fail, to send me a quote for you every week! Thank you, Jerry!