Minnesota school leaders have spent the past several days reimagining learning and how they deliver education through an inside-out distance learning model. As schools embark on the final week of the statewide planning period for distance learning, it’s important that leaders focus on putting their plans to paper and creating a district master plan.

This distance learning plan will not only call for new systems and role to deliver extended distance learning in your school district, but also the development of a new master schedule. MREA shares key steps to consider when developing that schedule below.

Key Components

The first steps are to assemble the pieces of your Distance Learning Plan. Click on each view more detailed guidance:

  1. Group Students by Learning Pathways (Learn more about getting started)
  2. Assessing Your Technology (Devices and Internet Access – Learn more)
  3. Materials (Preparation, delivery and pick up – Learn more about creating a new system)
  4. Nutrition (Learn more on eligibility)
  5. Effective Staff Utilization & Training (Learn more about teleworking)
  6. Child Care for Essential Workers (Tier 1 workers and if possible those in Tier 2) See the full list.

See More on First Steps

Getting Started

In brick-and-mortar schools, the choke points – or focal points for congestion – for scheduling are the bus schedule, lunch room capacity and lunch lines, and for secondary, the bell schedule for the number of class periods.

Turning schools inside-out in a distant learning model removes those choke points and brings others to the forefront:

  • The individual home bandwidth from least to most
  • Your delivery and pick up for nutrition and lesson materials
  • Your parent access for pick up or delivery and to support the learning of younger children

Education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker has championed creative thinking around these issues to deliver equitable distance learning, in her daily phone calls with superintendents.

  • Reschedule your instruction. 
    Commissioner Ricker praised Edgerton 6-12 Principal Brian Gilbertson’s creative thinking for asking whether his secondary staff could switch from a daily seven period day to a block schedule with instruction every other day for three periods per day.  She stated that that the block schedule would fit the daily contact guidance.
  • Design new systems for counting daily attendance.
    Commissioner Ricker has been clear that school districts may design new systems for counting daily attendance.  They are not bound by the class by class systems that applied to brick and mortar schools. Districts can turn attendance upside down, from an accountability system to a family wellness check in phone call. Phone calls and other attendance systems can be made by anyone on staff, not necessarily the people who in brick and mortar do attendance.

A New Master Schedule

With this flexibility to completely rethink scheduling to an Inside-out distance learning model, here are five steps to consider when creating your new district master schedule.

1. Online 

For synchronous online instruction, consider How many lessons can families’ bandwidth—both in internet and parental attention—handle in any given time? The answer is likely to be one or two:

  • Schedule district instruction accordingly. For example, elementary in the morning; middle and high school in the afternoon or every other day.
  • Principals assign times to elementary grade levels and to the secondary bell schedule within that master schedule.

2. Physical

For asynchronous instruction, using both digital communications and physical delivery and pickup, what is going to be the schedule for physical delivery and pick up which will be your district minimum lesson length turn-around time:

  • If you are doing lesson and nutrition delivery every other day, then the minimum for a new lesson may be every two days for a two day turn around.
  • If you are doing pick up, how are you scheduling parents? For example, this could be handled every other day  by last name with A-M on odd days, and N-Z on even days. In this case, the minimum again would a new lesson every two days with the turnaround time so instruction is equitable for those with and without Internet access.

3. Daily Interaction & Attendance

Daily interaction and attendance is then governed by your master schedule. One phone call per family should be able to track the attention of all K-12 children in the family to their lessons and entered on a once on SIS. Families with children in multiple buildings can be assigned to one building to check attendance for all students.

4. Nutrition & Transportation

Nutrition and transportation departments need to be at the table when designing this master schedule and then organized within the master schedule. Staff can be reassigned to complete tasks.  Districts are being creative and working with unions to provide incentives for employees to do this necessary work.

5. Communicate 

Clearly communicate this to staff, especially on why they need to work within this schedule and Communicate daily with parents and students on that days’ schedule. Learn more.


Taking Action

MREA developed a series of guides to help schools respond and plan for the spread of COVID-19:

Stay Connected

Stay apprised of resources and news on COVID-19 for schools at: MREAvoice.org/covid19