District 549 Parents, Community Members, and others,
I want to take this time to give you an update on the COVID-19, and specifically its impact on our schools. The Minnesota Department of Education and Minnesota Department of Health conducted a conference call with School Districts this morning mostly aimed at answering the most popular questions being asked, as well as providing some guiding principles as we navigate through this.
As of this morning. there are 14 confirmed cases in the State of Minnesota. Not one of those is directly connected to a school district. All of them are associated with travel. This number is most certainly going to rise, but it’s important to understand the difference between confirmed cases and numbers of people being screened.
There is no recommendation or directive from MDE, MDH, or the Governor to close schools in the state of Minnesota. Here are a few of the reasons why at this point:
1. Age group of 19 and under is at the lowest risk
2. Continuity of Education is critical. Many families (specifically Free/Reduced) rely on meals for their children.
3. Impact on Health Care: Should schools close around the state, this would have a drastic impact on the Health Care field, as many of these essential employees (doctors, nurses, etc) would be staying home with their own children.
4. Would it be effective?: Students would likely still congregate in the event of a school closure
5. Should schools close with no school community case confirmed, when would you open school back up? Especially knowing the anticipated increasing trend of cases in the future.
While school closure throughout the state is not a directive or recommendation at this point, we certainly need to know it’s a possibility as this unfolds. As you’ve seen in the last 48 hours, this is all very fluid and changing by the hour. Should our school community have a confirmed case, MDH, CDC, and local public health are fully prepared to guide school districts through that situation.
In an effort to slow the transmittal of COVID-19, the MDH and the CDC are providing principle guidelines for a Community Mitigation Process. Again, this is a preventative measure. Some of the important guidelines for us to implement include:
1. Social Distancing: This refers to physical shared spaces, specifically sharing space within 6 feet of each other for 10 minutes or longer. Obviously not an easy one to implement within classroom spaces, but frequent changes of seating arrangements, group work, and increased movement are recommended.
2. Limit School Assemblies
3. Consider Distance Learning for students with health risks. School Nurse Sue Seip has already started communicating with IEP and 504 teams and families to discuss each plan on a case by case basis.
4. Cancel Large Events: Most of you are aware of the cancellations the MSHSL has made to Section and State Tournaments. School districts are being advised to follow the same suit with their own larger events, such as concerts, games, meets, etc.
I want to thank all of you for your patience and efforts through all of this. This is obviously new waters for every one of us. There are certain “moments in time” in each of our lives, and I think we’re in the middle of one of those right now. I would highly suggest reminding your children that what they are seeing on social media and in the media is often times inaccurate. You and your children need to know the school district is working very closely with the agencies directly involved, and we are not alone in this. The Department of Health and Center for Disease Control are prepared to assist school district if there is a local confirmation of COVID-19.
This is a challenging situation for us locally and globally. Many more questions, concerns, and further directives are sure to come our way, and we will work tirelessly to keep our students safe and families informed.