RED WING -- Local teachers will be involved in the Edgenuity online learning option after all. That’s the law.
The extent of that involvement, however, is unclear.
Since being hired in late June, Red Wing Public Schools’ new director of teaching and learning has touted a two-option online learning plan -- one local and one outsourced through Arizona-based Edgenuity. Parents who elected not to send their children back to the classroom during the pandemic could choose between the two.
Jess Whitcomb said that two big differences were the instructors and the cost.
Local teachers would teach the local online option; Edgenuity would strictly use Edgenuity teachers.
A two-year contract with Edgenuity would cost $200 to $3,000 per student depending on the number of students who selected the outsourced option, she told Red Wing School Board members. The district would retain the $8,000-plus in aid per student. The more who sign up, the lower the cost and the greater the savings.
“It seems too good to be true,” Superintendent Karsten Anderson said early in the planning.
Indeed, it was too good to be true.
The Minnesota Department of Education has notified the district that outsourcing online education with Edgenuity does not meet state law. Public teachers must be under contract with a district as well as be licensed by the state. Plus, Edgenuity is not a state-approved online provider.
The Department of Education gave Red Wing Public Schools and Goodhue County Education District, of which Red Wing is a member, two options if they want to continue with Edgenuity:
Have a Red Wing teacher co-teach with an Edgenuity instructor.
Actively pursue the application process to become an online learning provider.
“We are in the process of doing both,” GCED Executive Director Cherie Johnson said Monday, Aug. 31. The consortium filed a letter of intent that day. She said as soon as the state issues acceptance of that letter, she will file an application.
GCED holds the two-year Edgenuity contract signed June 1. When talks began this was to provide supplemental courses in smaller member districts, such as a foreign language, and for credit recovery when students needed to make up classes to graduate. GCED used Fuel Education, an online provider, for five years but switched.
Johnson acknowledged that leadership made a mistake by simply trying to extend that contract to full-time learning: "We just didn't make the connection."
“We recognize the need at this unusual time to allow for flexibility while also honoring the statute and law,” Wendy Hatch of the Department of Education said in an email to the Republican Eagle.
Hatch, the communications director, said the districts may not lay off any currently contracted district staff and must work with the provider to transition from using Edgenuity staff to using district staff.
Gov. Tim Walz’s executive order No. 20-82 directed that Minnesota public schools must provide a distance learning option for students. Public schools could set up a distance education program or contract with a state-approved online provider.
Red Wing could purchase the Edgenuity curriculum that local teachers would use, but cannot pay Edgenuity to teach it.
Johnson said Red Wing will assign someone to co-teach with an Edgenuity teacher, be responsible to ensure that the education standards are met and then offer the grade. Who the “teacher of record” will be, how many there will be and the extent of their involvement will be for Red Wing Public Schools to decide.
About two dozen students chose Edgenuity. Anderson estimated that 20-25% of the district’s student population will be going online, with most choosing the local option.
The School Board has a special meeting scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the early childhood through grade 12 learning plan.