Back-to-School Update

Students pose with Richfield STEM School principal Amy Winter

Dear RPS Families & Staff,

This week we presented the back-to-school plan to the board for review. We are excited to announce that we are moving forward with the hybrid model and the Richfield Distance Learning Academy as presented.

There were several great questions asked by board members and by guests during the public comment portion. I want to address those questions here as well so that everyone has the information. 

Why are students in grades 6-12 only in school one day per week?

When we look at other schools who already brought students back but then had to switch to distance learning after an outbreak of COVID-19, one thing they had in common was that students were in schedules that had them moving classrooms and mixing with hundreds of other students, thus allowing an outbreak to quickly spread.

Our model keeps students in small cohorts (or pods) throughout the year so that if a student tests positive, there are only a small number of other students or staff who they have been in contact with, helping to prevent a school-wide outbreak from occurring.

It is not possible to keep students in pods at the secondary level while also teaching core content because not enough students have the same schedules. They have different electives, different level math classes, some are in the DLI program while others are not, etc. The only way to keep secondary students in pods is to bring them in for non-core classes such as career and college readiness, advisory and individual supports. 

Here’s the math:

In a pod with 20 students, if one student tests positive for COVID-19, 21 people are out of school for 14 days: 1x20 students + 1x1 teacher = 21 people exposed

Without pods, with a block schedule where students all come to school for 2 days per week and take 8 classes, if one student tests positive for COVID-19, up to 168 people are out of school for 14 days: 1x20 students per class x8 classes = up to 160 students + 1 teacher x 8 classes = 8 teachers = up to 168 people exposed

If someone tests positive for COVID-19 in school, what is the process? Will families be notified?

If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, we partner with the Minnesota Department of Health to ensure the appropriate individuals are notified. In general, there are two levels of communication that will be sent out.

  1. Students and staff who were in close contact with the individual (defined by the Minnesota Department of Health as 6’ or closer for 15 minutes or longer) will receive a letter and phone call informing them of the incident and asking them to quarantine for 14 days.
  2. Students and staff who were not in close contact with the individual, but otherwise potentially impacted because of their involvement in the school or an activity, will receive an informational notice to self-monitor, but will not be required to quarantine.

Detailed information about self-screening and other COVID-related responses will be posted on the website within the next week, including the contact information for the COVID coordinator at each school.

Are the school supply lists updated?

After reviewing the lists, it was determined that we will not be updating them for the fall. Families who enroll in the Richfield Distance Learning Academy can purchase the items as needed during the year. Students in the hybrid program should still plan to purchase all the supplies listed and keep them at home until their teacher tells them to bring specific supplies into school for the learning activities at that time.

Our school supply lists (grades K-8) are located on each school website under Family Resources and Back to School. The lists are aligned across grade-levels and not school or class-specific. 

Please note that you will see many items on the lists that are marked as “classroom supplies.” These items are not shared among students. Each student keeps the supplies that they currently need in their pencil box or pencil pouch (also on the list). The intent is to ensure every student has the items they need to be successful and also to eliminate the sharing of supplies among students during COVID-19.

Up Next

You will soon be hearing directly from schools about teacher assignments, A/B schedules, plans for the first week of school, Chromebook distribution and more. In a normal year, this information would have been sent out by now, but as you know, this is not a normal year.

We are all grateful for your understanding, patience and support.


Superintendent Steven Unowsky


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This update containd details on the hybrid program, response plan for positive COVID-19 cases and school supply lists.