24 hours before 1st day, SW MN district postpones start of school year

A staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

A southwest Minnesota school district is delaying the start of its school year after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19. 

Minneota Public Schools, a district representing students and families in parts of Lincoln, Lyon and Yellow Medicine counties, announced the decision to delay the start fo the school year on Sunday, less than 24 hours before the first day of class was set to begin Monday. 

The staff member who tested positive was in contact with others connected to the district last Wednesday-Friday, though Superintendent Dan Deitte said "the risk of exposure for other individuals present in the building on those dates is no greater than the risk of contracting the virus in the general community."

Anyone who was in contact with the staff member has been notified. All contacts have been instructed to self-isolated for 14 days. 

"Out of an abundance of caution, the school board has moved to delay the start of the school year until September 1, 2020," Deitte announced.

"I recognize that this quick change may be challenging for families who had planned for the school year to begin tomorrow. I apologize. Under these unprecedented times, we all have to work together to prioritize the health and safety of our students, staff, and school community."

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Most Minnesota public schools are scheduled to return to class the day after Labor Day, be it for in-person instruction, through distance learning or a hybrid model of in-person and remote classes. 

Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Monday that Minneota's situation is one that other schools could find themselves in throughout the school year: "Planning for one learning model and all of a sudden they need to turn on a dime – literally before the next morning." 

"We know the school year is not going to be easy," Malcolm added. "Certainly not for teachers, administrators, and for kids and families. This is just a very challenging and fluid environment." 

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