Mountain Iron-Buhl teachers share their plans for online teaching but not everyone has access

Mesabi Daily News reports on how teachers are planning on deploying online education…

A few teachers in the audience Monday spoke about how they are already planning for distance learning.

High school math teacher Amy Mattson said she will record video lessons, which will be available to students at the beginning of each week. Students will have until the following Saturday to complete the work. “Plans can be flexible,” she said, adding that some will sent via an app.

She will also be available for video conferencing for students in pre-calculus, for example, so students can “go through problems” that may be more difficult.

Mattson said distance learning puts more responsibility on the students for their own education. “They are still responsible for setting aside the time to do it.”

First grade teacher Melissa Brisk said many teachers will record lessons at the school, “so we will still have access to whiteboards” and other materials.

Brisk said she aims to make lessons simple to follow for the young students — and for their parents — such as recording a series of 10-minute videos with three-minute lessons. She noted that the school work can be done at any time of the day.

And about access equity – no specific solution but definitely a recognition of need…

The superintendent noted that not all students have access to the internet, and teachers will make special arrangements with those students. The district is assuring remote instruction is “equitable” for all students, including those in special education, she said.

KSTP5 reports on the folks around Mountain Iron who don’t have access…

The family lives 10 minutes from Mountain Iron, along a two-lane highway, but has no access to the internet.

“We basically have to use a hotspot from our [cellphone] service and it is limited,” Parenteau said.

With both of his sons home for an extended period due to the state-mandated closure of schools, the family faces tough decisions about who can use their limited data to get online.

And a broader look at the area…

Hundreds of families on the Iron Range don’t have internet access at home, according to Steve Giorgi, executive director of the Range Association for Municipalities and Schools. The organization advocates at the state legislature for broadband funding and expansion.

He said getting service to parts of northern Minnesota is difficult and expensive.

“Part of it is geography,” Giorgi said during an interview, pointing to the bedrock the mining industry relies on. “The cost is three to four times higher than in southern Minnesota.”

The state legislature has worked to fund broadband expansion, as part of the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program. But those funds are capped at $5 million per project.

“There is no e-learning in rural Minnesota and without that funding, there’s not going to be for a long time,” Giorgi said.

The lack of access has led school leaders across the region to come up with drastic measures to make sure students are connected.

They are innovating but as the “distancing” extends, these band-aid solutions will get old…

At Merritt Elementary, students cleared items from their lockers on Monday. Since technology, like iPads, is often useless in a home without internet access, students took home stacks of stapled worksheets instead.

“I’m having to package up pencils for kids to make sure they get home so they can do the paper and pencil test,” Dr. Engebritson said.

In Virginia, Minnesota, students without internet access will be allowed to park beside the high school to access the Wi-Fi network using their devices to do assignments from inside their cars.

“It’s like the McDonald’s drive-thru,” joked Dr. Noel Schmidt, superintendent of schools, explaining how the process would work.

But Dr. Schmidt also admitted this is not an ideal situation.

“This is not normal, what we’re doing. But it’s one of those things, you do what you got to do, so the kids and the parents can get Wi-Fi.”

This entry was posted in education, MN and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

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