COVID-19 Communication

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Right arrow Northern Lights Academy 2020-21 Safe Learning Plan (includes all 3 learning models) 

Right arrow NLA School Closure and Distance Learning Plan (updated May 5, 2020)

Right arrow Families First Coronavirus Response Act Employee Rights Poster

Message from Assistant Special Education Director, Barb Mackey:

January 6, 2021

Dear NLA Families,

Happy New Year! May 2021 bring all the blessings you and your family need this year. At NLA, we are looking forward to getting our students back to in person learning full time soon. This message is to share with you the plans for the next week and the learning model change happening on January 19th. 

The NLA administration has reviewed the overall health of our students and staff and  has been in contact with the regional team to discuss changing our learning model. We found out that we need to use hybrid learning for one additional week so students will attend school during the week of January 11-15th using the same hybrid model we are using this week. There is a regularly scheduled no student day on January 18th which is on the NLA calendar. Then, starting January 19th, students will attend school using the in person model. We are very excited to have a return to in person learning date! 

There are a couple of additional ways we are working to continue lowering the risk of transmission of covid-19. All staff are required to wear a face mask as well as a face shield throughout the day. All students continue to be required to wear a mask. A new requirement of returning to in person learning is that students will also now be required to wear the mask during gym time. We will work with students to make this adjustment. 

NLA also continues to offer distance learning to families who make the request of distance learning. This is a good time to review the needs and health of your family. An NLA staff member will be calling you tomorrow to check in and find out what your plan is for your child. Is he/she planning to return to in person learning full time? Are you still requesting distance learning for your child? Did an IEP team make a decision for the use of a hybrid model? If so, is the hybrid model still the best fit or should we have another meeting to make that determination? The answers to these questions will help us to plan for who is returning and using what schedule. We would like each one of our students back in our buildings, but support the choice of the family. We look forward to hearing what you plan to do.

Unfortunately, I also need to pass on a quick reminder that we are still monitoring the health of all of our students and staff closely along with the local data. If we have in school exposures or  transmission or if we have staffing issues due to staff illness or quarantine, we may need to return to the use of the hybrid model or even possibly the distance learning model. We are hopeful that we will be able to use the in person model for the remainder of the school year, but unfortunately, Covid-19 is unpredictable and that may not be possible. As always, we will communicate with you as soon as we have updated information.

Thank you very much for your support and understanding as we forge our way through this pandemic and school year. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at the office or by email. 

Have a great day!
Barb Mackey

November 24, 2020

Dear NLA Families,  Staff and Referring Districts,

Thank you so much for the hard work to make the new hybrid schedule work this past week. Our students and families are working hard to follow through on both In Person and Distance Learning and we are very proud of all the effort put into learning! We know this isn’t easy for anyone. Our staff continue to work hard to meet the needs of students in both the In Person and Distance Learning models and  to problem solve to make things go as smoothly as possible. The referring districts transportation departments have been working hard to follow the schedule for students attending our In Person sessions. We appreciate all everyone’s efforts!

When we sent out the information regarding the switch to the Hybrid Model, we were hopeful that we could return to the In Person Model for all students after the Thanksgiving break. We are sad to report that after reviewing current Covid-19 data and our school situation, we are unable to return to the In Person model at this time. Everyone wishes we were able to, but the continued rise in Covid-19 cases and more staff illness and quarantine require NLA to use the Hybrid Model after we return from this weekend’s 4 day break.

The good news is that we can still use the Hybrid Model at this time when many schools are having to move to only Distance Learning. We do, however, need to encourage each family to have a back up plan in case there is an outbreak of Covid-19 at school and we need to shift to the Distance Learning model. We will communicate with you as soon as possible if a change is needed.  

During the review of the Covid-19 case data in the region and the NLA staff information, the NLA administration determined that Hybrid Learning will continue through January 8th, 2021. When we return from the Winter break on January 4th, the NLA administration will review the updated case data and make a decision on the model to use starting January 11th. We would like to communicate with you that we can return to an In Person for all In Person model, but we will need to use data to make that decision.

Thank you again for your understanding and patience as we move forward to provide education during this unpredictable and unprecedented time. We appreciate the cooperation and support each of you is providing to the NLA students and staff. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at the NLA office or at my email address or google voice number (218-451-2134)

We wish you a safe and healthy week!


Barb Mackey

Message from Assistant Special Education Director, Barb Mackey:

NLA Learning Model Change Information
November 9, 2020

The Northern Lights Academy administration appreciates all the input it received from families during the decision making process today. We also would like to thank each of you for your understanding because this was a difficult decision to make and your response has made it a little easier. We regrettably need to adjust the learning model to address the significant data regarding covid-19 new cases and the staffing issues we are experiencing when there is staff illness or quarantine. 

Unfortunately, the NLA will change from the In Person Model to the Hybrid Model starting on Monday, NOVEMBER 16, 2020. More information will be sent home tomorrow with your child and in an email so you have specific details about your child’s new schedule. At this time, we plan to use the hybrid model until Thanksgiving break and hope to move back to In Person learning on November 30th. We will send updates throughout the next couple of weeks to keep you informed.

In order for our staff to be prepared for using the  hybrid model, we need to close school for this Friday, November 13th. There will be NO SCHOOL for students on NOVEMBER 13th, 2020.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the NLA office. Thank you!

Message from Assistant Special Education Director, Barb Mackey:

November 5, 2020

Dear Families and Staff,

School districts across Minnesota have been provided guidance by the Minnesota Department of Education and Minnesota Department of Health under what’s called the Minnesota Safe Learning Plan. These guidelines are meant to guide districts in maintaining a model of instruction that prioritizes in-person instruction while also protecting community health. One portion of the guidelines directs schools to put a number of safety precautions in place to minimize the spread of Covid-19 in schools. These guidelines include monitoring for signs/symptoms of Covid-19, ordering individuals to quarantine based on various factors, increased cleaning of school buildings, providing increased spacing between students and requiring masking. Our current evidence across the county suggests that these measures have been very effective in combating the spread of Covid-19 within our school.

Across the districts the NLA serves, there are a variety of models in use for different lengths of time. Each district is responding to the data within their schools. Yesterday evening, Cloquet School District announced a move to distance learning. This announcement does NOT include the Northern Lights Academy as we are a separate school district and need to make decisions based on the needs of our students and the data within our school. The NLA administration continues to monitor the plans each of the districts are using as well as the local data to make decisions for the NLA.

We all had hoped to be able to continue to use In Person learning even though other districts have needed to make a change, however, that is becoming harder to do. Due to the sharp increase in county data and the inability to fill vacancies when staff need to quarantine, the NLA does need to make a shift in the model we are using to educate students. The NLA staff have developed a plan which will follow Governor Walz’s latest executive order (20-94 dated 11-5-2020),  keep students attending In Person as many days as possible while maintaining the health and safety of all students and staff and plan for when staff need to be quarantined due to illness or exposure. 

We are required to discuss the change in the model we use with the Regional Team and Dept of Health and obtain their approval before we use it. We submitted a request for the consultation with them last night and have heard that they are scheduling the meeting for Monday, November 9th. We are confident that although we need to make a change, we will be able to continue as much in person instruction as possible. 

There is no school on Monday due to a scheduled staff development day which was on the school calendar. Another update will be sent out Monday evening with more detailed information regarding the change in the model based on the meeting we have with the Regional Team. We are planning to continue In Person learning for the rest of next week. The change in model will be effective on November 16th. 

Unfortunately, with the uncertainty of Covid-19, we are not able to predict everything and may need to respond to changes in the situation before that time. We will work hard to provide as much advance notice if changes are necessary prior to November 16th. 

There is a lot about this pandemic that is out of our control. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate the ever-changing Covid-19 situation. Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns. I will respond as soon as possible. If you reach our voicemail, please leave a message and we will return your call as soon as we are able to do so. 

Thank you again for your patience and understanding,

Barb Mackey, Assistant Director of Special Education

Message from Assistant Special Education Director, Barb Mackey:

October 30, 2020

Dear Parents/Families/Staff:

Northern Lights Academy Staff and Administration are continuing to monitor the local data regarding Covid-19 in order to provide the most effective educational opportunities for your students and keep students and staff healthy and safe. Our staff have worked very hard to follow the requirements put out by the MN Department of Health and that is evidenced by the low impact to students and staff in our schools. 

We appreciate all of the support you are giving by monitoring your student and keeping him or her home when symptoms are present. We also are thankful for the calls regarding student absences because the student was exposed to a covid positive person and you decided to keep them home based on the information in the Decision Tree from MDH. This cooperation is helping to keep everyone safe at school and continuing our use of the In Person learning model at this time.

The local data is showing a significant increase in positive cases of Covid-19. The NLA Administration is planning to continue using the In Person model as long as possible, however, we know it may change. Our plan is to give you as much notice as possible. We encourage you to prepare for the possibility of distance learning so you and your family have a plan if we are needing to move to that model. At NLA, we are continuing to prepare for that possibility as well. 

One of the ways we are preparing is to make sure students take home the materials that may be needed if we have to move to the Distance Learning model. Starting next week, each student will bring home the materials which they may need so they can continue their learning. This may include: the school issued chromebook (as well as a hotspot for those students whose families do not have internet access at home), task/activity packets, supplies to complete the tasks/activities, and anything else that may be needed for their education. Please make sure to have your child bring a backpack so we may send items home each day. Whatever comes home in the bag should return to school the next day if we are able to have In Person learning.

School staff are also preparing their google classrooms and their other learning activities should they have to be out of school due to Covid-19. This preparation should help all of us to continue your student’s learning with as little disruption in the schedule as possible.  We hope that this preparation will not have to be used at all, but it is important to have it all ready.

Thank you for your continued support and understanding as we all work together to help your child learn. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact your child’s teacher or myself at the office or by calling/texting my google voice number at 218-451-2134. If it is after school hours, please use the google voice number and leave a message. I will return it as soon as possible if I am unable to answer it at the time you call or text. 

Have a great weekend and stay healthy!

Barb Mackey, Assistant Director of Special Education

Message from Assistant Special Education Director, Barb Mackey:

August 28, 2020

Happy Friday!
As of today, the Northern Lights Academy still has the option to use Scenario 1 - In Person Learning (with all the requirements from the MN Department of Health) for all students attending the NLA. Parents/guardians continue to have the option to request Distance Learning if they are uncomfortable with sending their child to school in person. We continue to monitor the health situation in all the communities we serve and will be in touch if there is a change to the model.

Packets have been sent out to families with information regarding our plans and back to school forms which will be needed the first day of school. The Open House is going to be by appointment only. If you would like to make an appointment, please call the NLA office and choose option 2 for the secretary. Ms. Petersen is our new secretary and she will set up the appointment with your child’s teacher.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact the NLA office or use our emails to address your questions. We are looking forward to working with you and your child this year!

Message from Assistant Special Education Director, Barb Mackey:

Message to Families and Staff
July 30, 2020

Good Afternoon! This is Ms. Mackey with a quick announcement. I hope you are all having a fabulous summer day!

Governor Walz, along with the Commissioners of Health and Education made an announcement today regarding the plan for starting the school year. Instead of a one answer fits every district decision, the plan is based on local COVID-19 data and each individual school district’s ability to meet the health and safety guidance put out by MDH.

NLA staff are going to review the local data and work with the districts who refer students to us to be intentional in our re-opening. We want our students to be back in our buildings, but we need to ensure that the health and safety guidelines are met. Based on the current numbers for each of the counties we serve, the NLA could consider some form of in-person learning for the start of the school year, however, we do need to have further conversation with stakeholders in order to determine which plan will be used at the start of the school year.

As we move forward, we will closely monitor the local data in order to make thoughtful decisions. You can expect at least weekly communication from NLA with updates on our opening. Regardless of which plan is put into place, parents and guardians have the option to request Distance Learning if they are uncomfortable with sending their child to school.

We look forward to sharing additional information with you next week. Please call the school office if you have any questions or concerns. We wish you a great day!

Barb Mackey

Message from the Director of Special Education, Dena Hagen: 7/9/20:

Dear NLA Families and Staff,

I hope everyone is enjoying this beautiful summer so far!  It is a great opportunity to breathe in some fresh air and sunshine, and breathe out the stress you may be feeling during this unprecedented time.

As Ms. Mackey let you know, we are ready for an ESY program for those eligible students to start next week, back in the Garfield school building.  We established a hybrid plan for summer (see description below) and because of the small number of students attending, it allows us to have all students come in person every day of ESY.   Please click on these links here for the NLA full summer plan for 2020 and an accompanying 2020 ESY booklet for families.

We are also busy planning for students and staff to start school in the fall, which will look different to keep students, staff, and families safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Schools are required to plan for three possible scenarios for the 2020-2021 school year:

1) In-Person Instruction- All students return to the building using social distancing measures
2) Hybrid - A combination of in person and distance learning with strict distancing and building capacity limits
3) Distance Learning - no students in the building, improving upon the system we had in place for Spring 2020

The Minnesota Department of Education will determine which scenario Minnesota schools will begin with this fall, sometime during the week of July 27 and we have been told to also prepare to "turn the dial" between more or less restrictive models during the school year, in response to the level of community spread of COVID-19.  

The Northern Lights Academy has also applied for federal CARES Act funding for our school.  Both the GEER (Governor's Education Emergency Relief) and the ESSER (Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief) funds will help us work to equitable education for all Northern Lights Academy students, especially in the area of technology and mental health.

We know that the unknown is placing significant strain on families and will share information as soon as it is available to help with your planning. We appreciate your understanding as we work to develop the best plans for meeting each of our students’ needs while also meeting the expectations set by MDE and MDH.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call the NLA office or send an email to Barb Mackey or call me at 218-655-5018 or email me at

Thank you for your continued support!
Dena Hagen
Director of Special Education