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.
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.
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
On September 8, Morrison County Public Health reported an increase in cases that pushed the Covid-19 14- day case rate over the ratio of 10. As you may recall, the new formula used by the entire state to assist schools in determining Learning Models is based upon the number of new Covid-19 cases over the last 14 days, per 10,000 residents, per county.
The fact that our county number crossed this new threshold does NOT mean all schools in the county are required to change to the next level. Public Health officials notified all Morrison County districts today they are not recommending any immediate change. Our county has formed a task force who continues to monitor the data which includes staff from all schools in the county. We constantly evaluate the data by zip code so all schools can make a more locally informed decision.
You can be assured that we will not make any change from one Learning Model to the next without providing you adequate notice. For example, if a rapid increase in case numbers involves many students, we would likely make decisions as quickly as possible to protect your children and household. On the other hand, if there are increases in Covid case counts that might not impact significant numbers of students and families (like long term care facilities, or some other specific industry), we could take more time to evaluate the trend over time and continue our most effective educational models as long as we can.
We know this will be a year like none other as we all work together to do everything we can on behalf of children. We are so happy to have this partnership with you as parents, as community members, and more than ever need to count on each other to communicate and share information knowing we all have what is best for our children as our number one priority.
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