On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Superintendent Dr. Luther Heller of the Montevideo School District announced that in addition to two positive cases confirmed last Friday, five more staff members have now tested positive for COVID-19; two at the middle school, two at the high school, one at Ramsey Elementary and one at the Sanford Education Center. The announcement stated that none of the staff have been in the buildings since Aug. 28.

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Superintendent Dr. Luther Heller of the Montevideo School District announced that in addition to two positive cases confirmed last Friday, five more staff members have now tested positive for COVID-19; two at the middle school, two at the high school, one at Ramsey Elementary and one at the Sanford Education Center. The announcement stated that none of the staff have been in the buildings since Aug. 28.

According to Heller, the district has been working with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Countryside Public Health to identify individuals who were in contact with the staff members who tested positive. Today (Thursday), the district plans to announce which learning model the facilities will employ after the first week of school.

“We understand that this may create unease in our community,” stated Heller. “We have taken action to clean and sanitize the facility and are working closely with MDH to monitor the situation. We are asking all members of our community to minimize the spread of illness, including wearing face masks, keeping six feet of social distance and properly washing hands.”

The district is working with MDH to continue monitoring the situation and will make a decision on further steps when they receive updated data from MDH and Countryside Public Health.

Monday, Aug. 31 was officially considered to be the first day of school for the fall 2020 semester, but after the first two staff had tested positive, Monday was changed to an instructional planning day, one of five allowed by the state to accommodate any need to switch learning models. Tuesday, Sept. 1 was the first day students received instruction.

“Over the last two weeks,” Heller said, “the focus in grades K-3 was to prepare for in-person learning and in grades 4-12 to prepare for the hybrid model. In making the switch to distance learning, Monday was taken as a day to allow teachers the opportunity to switch over to the new model. We have plans for each model and we know that at a given time we could be in any of the models.”

As of Monday, as stated by Heller, grades K-3 and 4-12 switched from in-person and hybrid learning to distance learning for the week while the district consults with MDH and Countryside Public Health. Heller added that the decision to change was based upon an increase in the number of staff members who became symptomatic and quarantined over the weekend, and concerns that the number would rise over the weekend while they awaited test results.

The district is expecting to receive new figures from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE), MDH, and Countryside Public Health today.The district will look at the data, along with what has been taking place within the district and make a decision based on the data.

“Based on the latest figures for our area, the state has not recommended distance learning. Our decision was not based upon an outbreak of COVID-19, but rather was a precautionary step based upon local conditions that were impacting our ability to conduct school. Our goal is to get students back into school as soon as it is safe and reasonable to do so,” Heller said.

As with any decision of this magnitude concerning what learning model the district will choose to employ, Heller explained that there are always mixed opinions and reactions.

“This is no exception,” he said. “Some people have been very favorable while others have questioned the wisdom of the decision.”

As the COVID-19 situation in the area continues to develop, conditions will continue to be fluid regarding decisions the district will make in order to enact the safest and most productive environment for its students and staff members.

“This is a challenging time, but we are Thunder Hawks and we will get through this and come out stronger together. I encourage you to continue to support one another and know we are focused on doing our very best for our students,” said Heller.