RED WING -- Jefferson might become a school again, and Burnside and Sunnyside might return to the neighborhood school format in the pandemic era.

That possibility caught some Red Wing School Board members off guard Monday night. Jim Patterson and the district have had a purchase agreement since 2019 and a February 2020 closure date was on the calendar, which was extended to August.

Then COVID-19 arrived.

“My gut feeling is that we should keep Jefferson School for another year and convert it into an elementary school,” Anderson told board members almost two hours into their June 29 workshop on 2020-2021 plans.

“I realize this is totally out of the blue for many of you if not all of you or most of you. The admin team is very serious about considering this possibility,” he said.

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The state is requiring that all districts look at ways to offer in-person learning yet keep students at least six feet apart. Having Jefferson in the mix would provide space, reduce the number of buildings individual families attend and alleviate bus transportation troubles.

Return to neighborhood schools

Anderson said the district would have three neighborhood elementary schools for a year or two, allowing for K-4 or even K-5 and K-6 schools instead of the current grade centers.

Currently, Sunnyside serves grades K-2 and Burnside serves 2-4, and most children ride a bus to school.

He mentioned that Twin Bluff Middle School might be configured, too -- grades 6-7 or simply grade 7 instead of 5-7, for example.

After a brief silence, School Board members slowly chimed in during the virtual meeting.

“It’s probably one of the better solutions that I’ve heard,” Mike Christensen said. “More kids walking, again getting back to neighbor schools, maybe drawing communities together. It has all the positives of 1964, so It’s a good idea.”

Then Christenson asked about cost.

Ballpark figure: $400,000 annually, Anderson said. The building would need a secretary, custodian, nurse, administrative support. Transportation saving could offset some of that.

Arlen Diercks said the sale falling through “may be a blessing at this time.” He noted that Sunnyside classrooms are small, so social distancing will be a challenge. He asked about Jefferson’s accessibility and if the district would need to install an elevator.

Anderson said accommodations might include keeping certain classrooms on the first level for Americans with Disabilities compliance.

“I am not in favor of sticking hundreds of thousands of dollars into a building we have agreed to sell,” Board member Jim Bryant said, but added he might support options for its use.

“I’m getting a consensus that we should at least look at it,” Anderson said.

The board is scheduled to meet next at 6 p.m. Monday, July 20.