As Morrison County numbers continue to rise, some districts in our county are implementing changes to their learning models.
Pierz Schools will continue to watch the Pierz and Hillman zip codes along with the number of positive cases for students and families in our school. For now, the data for our district zip codes is holding steady as it has the past 3 weeks for our specific area. We thank our community and families for that, and are grateful for the families who can provide transportation to your students each day; our efforts to reduce capacity on the busses will also reduce contact tracing and slow the spread. Now more than ever, we continue to ask you to be careful, stay away from at-risk events, and reduce your risk of exposure. Now more than ever, if your child has symptoms, keep them home.
All of us have the goal of implementing “in-person” learning as long as possible, assuming we can adequately staff it and provide stability for families. That is one of the reasons why we went hybrid for 7-12; this model increases social distancing which cuts down on contact tracing-- eliminating the abrupt removal of so many students when there is a positive case or possible exposure.
It is also worth noting: the MDH guidelines for learning models based on 14-day case rates are not mandated, but instead one of the data points all districts should consider, in addition to other school and community information. As with all data during this unprecedented time, we have pivoted as we know more about how the virus is spread; we, along with all MN counties, are looking more closely at case rates by zip codes and buildings.
At this point, we hope we can stay the course with what we are doing right now. Each moment, we collectively do our best, and we do what seems to be the smartest decision at the time.
The decision to take a test is a medical decision made by the family of students or made by the adults involved including staff. MDH will make recommendations. But the decision is made by the individual.
The Minnesota Department of Health manages all incidents whether they are students or staff.
As part of the MN Safe School Plan, every school in Morrison County is assigned a Regional Support team, that consists of the following personnel: two state epidemiologists, an education consultant, staff from Morrison County Public Health, and our School Nurse, Robyn Skwira. Every school in our county has a representative for any incidents that impact their school. This team will direct all follow up decisions and determinations on next steps for potential individuals involved. They, along with MDH, will determine any contacts and their protocols.
A: 7 - 12th graders will be required to log in and will attend class with their peers, via video. The high school students will have block classes where they attend only 4 classes each day so they will need to log in for part or all of the day depending on their class schedule.
Elementary students will have a designated teacher who will provide instruction, it will not be one of the regular classroom teachers simultaneously teaching both. These times will be more flexible and will not require a full day online, but will require time online during the day. It will be important that you have the overall capability to be available online; however, we understand there are times when technology can be unstable.
If parents are working, it will be necessary that the students can work independently online.
Parents and/or students should request homework through the office every time a student is absent. High school students can check in via Google Classroom and email directly with their teachers.
When a student is absent with COVID related symptoms, the waiting period for test results will be classified as a school excused absence and parents/students should request homework through the office.
If a test will not be attained, a household member is positive or family is undecided on getting a test, the student will be out for a minimum of 10 days as determined by the circumstances of the situation and will be transitioned to Distance Learning.
Parents need to communicate with the building nurse about test results to determine a return to school date.
Questions about returning to school due to health, should be directed to the building nurse. (Parents are asked to communicate with the building nurse any time COVID symptoms are present in any family member, testing is needed or has been done, or a family member is a close contact of a confirmed case.)
Questions about homework during an absence should be directed to the office secretary or classroom teacher.
Building principals should be contacted at any time if a parent has concerns or questions.
This information is provided so parents and students have a place to go specifically regarding how our schools are required to manage Covid cases and provide you some additional information.
We certainly expect and support anyone with questions to consult their family physician or other medical providers who would have more detailed information regarding your personal conditions or questions.
What happens if there is a case identified in a school?
There are certainly different rules for schools compared to other businesses, not only for our students but also for our staff. In our world, if anyone in a home tests positive, we cannot allow anyone from that home in our schools. So it impacts our staffing capacity all the time.
In the end, most MDH guidelines are centered around stopping any spread. Any place where people gather is a place of high risk of spreading. Our state cannot really govern social gatherings, but they can assert control over schools.
We understand and are living out with you the frustrations of implementing the myriad of MDH expectations for all these scenarios. In the end, the philosophy of MDH is to stop the spread no matter what. So from their perspective; the sacrifices we have to make, in terms of missing school, or being short staffed, or having to teach remotely, or finding childcare and all the other challenges handed us, are all part of our collective effort to stop the virus from spreading. That is their number one priority.
We understand that priority, even if we do not always like what it means in terms of our options.
Why is Hybrid any better than bringing in all the students?
It is the only way a school can comply with the Social Distancing rules. Classrooms are not large enough to seat a classroom of students and keep them 6 feet apart, but if we cut the numbers in half we could hold classes with desks spread apart and make it through a school day complying with the social distance rules at least to some degree. Of course, for each student, it is contingent upon how the students manage themselves all day long in and out of the classroom.
What can Parents and Community Members do to help?
Obviously the number one priority is the safety and health of all in your household. We understand that alone can be challenging with jobs and school and children’s needs and household needs and everything that entails.
But above and beyond that, there are a few things that would make a big difference in terms of helping keep our schools open. We will highlight a few:
Busing -- There is no way around the fact that a Bus ride requires students to be within 6 feet for much longer than 15 minutes. So it will always be one of our ongoing challenges this entire school year. We have asked all in-town students to walk. That is sacrifice when the child is very young. But even that change, and even the terrific help many are showing by bringing in and picking up children still puts lots of students on our buses.
So, any help family and community can provide to bring children to school and home from school will make a big difference. It will help keep your own and many more children in school.
Social Events Outside of School -- One school in our area had an entire wave of cases stem from a large slumber party. We absolutely understand the struggle to give our children what they want. We absolutely respect that these are parental choices to make. But this is a time when we have to weigh everything. All of us do, as our staff are in the same dilemma every hour of every day. So each time we host a gathering for our children or anyone in our home attends social events and locations we are always managing the risk of bringing the virus into our homes. We all hope somehow the school year is able to happen as much and as long as possible without Distance Learning as the only option, and the potential loss of activities. So as we have these conversations with the children and adults in our homes, we are weighing the fun of one event against the potential loss of other events.
Outdoors if Possible -- We understand it is Minnesota -- and now we are losing our summer. But anything outside with lots of fresh air always, getting rid of the viral load in the air around us, is far, far better, if there needs to be a social gathering. In some respects, that might be the difference between our summer of very low county numbers compared to what is happening now.
Grade 7-12 conferences have been changed from October 7 to November 9. Conferences will be virtual/phone call.
There is no school October 7 and October 8 for grades 7-12.
There is no school October 9 for PK-12, this was a scheduled workshop day.
Students in grades 7-12 will change to a hybrid schedule starting October 12. Students will receive a schedule designed by bus routes and attend in person either Monday and Thursday or Tuesday and Friday. All students will attend via Distance Learning platform on Wednesdays and the opposite days of their in-person days. View calendar here to see October schedule of black/red days.
Starting Monday, October 12, students at Healy can grab lunch for days when they will be at home distance learning during the hybrid learning model. Each morning, students will fill out their request form, and pick up their lunches at the end of the day. All the information has been shared with students, but a reminder from parents never hurts:) All the information in on the Lunch Grab and Go Slideshow
We received a report from a parent whose children have tested positive. These are in our middle school grades. Each case results in contact tracing and if your student is affected, you will receive a phone call and will be notified of the exposure date. Please read the message below; all information, steps and safety information remains the same.
As we received notification of a new positive case, we work with MDH to identify those who had close contact with the case, and communicate with them individually. The risk of exposure for other individuals present in the building on that date is no greater than the risk of contracting the virus in the general community.
For privacy reasons, we can’t share many details about the status of the person. At this time they are either staying home and/or working at home for at least 10 days, and any staff or students who have been in close contact with them have been notified that they must also stay home and/or work from home for 14 days. If you have not been contacted, you are not considered to be at higher risk, and there is nothing additional you need to do.
We have taken action to clean and sanitize the facility and are working closely with MDH to monitor the situation. To minimize further exposure, we continue to recommend implementation of the following strategies:
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, chills, headache, muscle pain, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell. Other less common symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after you are exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19. Not everyone with COVID-19 has all of these symptoms, and some people may not have any symptoms. Talk to your health care provider if you have questions or concerns about symptoms.
The Is it COVID-19? Website is Minnesota’s tool for identifying symptoms and when to seek medical help.
If you are positive for COVID-19, contact your human resource manager. They will help determine what next steps you need to take. Any personal health information employees provide to human resources will be maintained confidentially.
Resources that you may find valuable are:
Robyn Skwira RN, BSN, PHN
Licensed School Nurse