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Marshall Public Schools enrollment holding steady

School board hears updates as classes resume on hybrid model

MARSHALL — Classes at Marshall Public Schools are going to look a lot different than when students left them in March. But even with all the changes and concerns over COVID-19, enrollment in the district is holding steady, Superintendent Jeremy Williams said Tuesday.

In an update to the Marshall School Board, Williams said student counts for the district were up by more than 50 from May.

“We’re up from where we were last year, but it’s preliminary,” Williams said. Enrollment numbers tend to stabilize after the first week of school, he said.

Williams gave brief reports on a few different facets of the return to school this fall.

“Things are going really smoothly,” he said, with orientation and assessment days on Tuesday and Wednesday, and classes starting Wednesday for older students and Thursday for most elementary students. “It looks different and feels different, but it was working well today.”

Williams said MPS’s total student count on Friday was 2,497, compared to 2,440 in May. That total was a little bit under what the district had estimated for enrollment, but still up from last year. Marshall High School and MATEC had the biggest increase, with 59 more students than last spring. Initial enrollment at Park Side Elementary was down by 10, at 498 students.

MPS is starting the school year in a hybrid learning mode where students are back in the classroom with extra social distancing precautions. Depending on grade level, students are each spending one or two days a week doing distance learning, to leave extra room to spread out in the school buildings.

“We are in frequent communications with public health and the MDH, and looking at what’s going on in our community,” Williams said. While the COVID-19 rates in Lyon County were still holding, it was recommended that MPS stay in a hybrid learning model for now.

“The first few weeks we’ll be teaching a lot of those safety protocols, including face coverings, social distancing, frequent hand washing, additional cleaning and such that are going on in our classrooms,” Williams said. “Our school nurses have been doing a lot of extra work this summer getting us ready for this fall.”

One of the tools that was shared with MPS last week was a decision-making tree for dealing with possible COVID-19 symptoms in students or school staff, Williams said. The chart, developed by the Minnesota Department of Health, helps guide school staff on whether a person should be sent home or be tested for COVID-19. The decision tree also gives guidance on how long people should stay home from school or activities, and whether close contacts will also need to quarantine.

Williams said school nurses, principals and himself would be keeping track of that process for consistency.

One challenge in getting students back to school was social distancing on transportation. School buses will be running extra routes with fewer kids on board, and schools will be starting class at different times to accommodate that, Williams said. Park Side and West Side Elementary will start at 8 a.m. and run until 2:45 p.m., while Marshall Middle School and Marshall High School will run from 8:15 to 3:15.

MPS staff said this year the district has a total of 15 new teachers in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as 5 teachers in different positions within the district.

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