Albert Lea Area Schools has been back to school for five days and is already dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.
According to Superintendent Dr. Mike Funk, the district has seen 36 students in Grades 6-12 test positive for the coronavirus, with an additional 290 students quarantined due to exposure to the virus.
"It took the district until early October last year to reach this threshold of positive cases," Funk noted in the letter, adding that the district started the school year with "minimal procedures in place" to prevent COVID-19, though the district was conducting daily health screenings and masks were recommended, but not required.
Due to the outbreak, all students in Grades 6-12 will be required to wear a mask through at least Oct. 20. The students who are now quarantined will be able to return to school beginning Aug. 30 as long as they don't have symptoms and haven't tested positive.
The mask requirement includes students participating in indoor sports while not "actively participating." Fans will also be required to wear a mask at indoor sporting events (swimming, volleyball, concerts).
Masks won't be required for outdoor events.
The district's elementary schools have not seen a rapid uptick in COVID-19 levels so masks are not required
"We strongly encourage families to visit with a medical provider, and consider vaccination of their students ages 12 and over during this period of time. Vaccinated students with no symptoms are not subject to quarantine," Funk wrote.
The coronavirus is transmitting at substantial or high rates in 86 of Minnesota's 87 counties, including Freeborn County, which is home to Albert Lea.