RED WING -- Public schools will continue with the K-6 and 7-12 grade configurations for the 2021-22 academic year. The Red Wing School Board approved the administration’s plan 3-2 on Tuesday, Jan 18.

The plan is for full in-person learning come fall.

“That’s our expectation. That’s our hope,” Superintendent Karsten Anderson said, but this configuration also accommodates the pandemic unknowns such as a future need for hybrid learning, social distancing and other COVID-19 restrictions.

“This is the one scenario that provides all of these flexibilities,” Twin Bluff Principal Chris Palmatier said, stressing it would be for one more year.

Red Wing High School will continue to house grades 7-12 while Twin Bluff, Sunnyside and Burnside will remain K-6 schools. Jefferson will be elementary, too, if the district needs the space and the School Board approves its use. That school was put back into service for 2020-2021, allowing students to be spaced six feet apart in all elementary classrooms.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

“I am really uncomfortable essentially with not having a middle school,” Board member Anna Ostendorf said of the plan.

“What’s the plan for specials?” she added, referring to arts, technology, etc. Those things fell by the wayside this year. She questioned if adopting the same plan for next school year is again “inadvertently locking us into not being able to have those things.”

Palmatier agreed with Ostendorf. He said he looks at the beautiful pool and amenities: Twin Bluff is meant to be a middle school. But he added that getting all students safely back into buildings must be "our North Star" for the coming academic year.

Vice Chair Jim Bryant voted no with Ostendorf. He wasn’t satisfied with answers to his inquiry about having all sixth-graders attend Twin Bluff.

Board members Arlen Diercks and Jennifer Tift supported administrators’ recommendation but with the expectation that special classes and sixth-grade band will be accommodated. Chair Pam Roe cast the deciding vote; Nicky Bucky and Holly Tauer had notified the board they were unable to attend.

Red Wing High School Principal George Nemanich addressed three “looming” questions:

  1. Can RWHS fit grades 7-12 if they are “all in”? Yes.

  2. Without a middle school, what are we doing with grades 7-8? Staff continue to work on creating a middle school feel: different schedule than as older students, an advisory, shorter class periods, etc.

  3. What about registration, budget, enrollment? Registration is next month. Teaching assignments follow. There may be some students who want to continue online classes.

“We can’t really work on those until we make a decision on configuration,” Nemanich said.

“This will give them a chance to make more detailed plans,” Tift said in casting her vote.