More school districts are transitioning to distance learning for all grade levels as Minnesota's COVID-19 outbreak worsens, and two of the latest to make the switch are Anoka-Hennepin School District and Bloomington Public Schools.
Anoka-Hennepin, the largest district in the state serving approximately 37,000 students, announced Tuesday that a "growing number of school employees are being directly impacted by COVID-19 isolation and quarantine, making it challenging" for the district to continue the hybrid learning model for elementary grades.
The district transitioned middle and high school students to distance learning Nov. 4. An exact date for when elementary students will move to 100% online instruction has yet to be announced.
"While many districts are considering this transition within the next three weeks, the decision on a date for the transition has not been made and will be communicated to families with as much advance notice as possible," the district's announcement said. "Details on special education, child care, meals and any other programming shifts will be shared at that time. Every effort will be made to make this change go as smoothly as possible."
According to the Anoka-Hennepin COVID-19 data tracker, 34 students tested positive for the disease in the 14 days leading up to Nov. 7. It's unclear exactly how many teachers and staff have been infected, but the data tracker shows a significant spike in employees with confirmed cases since Oct. 24.
Bloomington Public Schools is making the shift to distance learning for elementary students beginning Monday, Nov. 30. The last day of hybrid learning will be Nov. 20, which means students will return from Thanksgiving break to 100% online instruction.
Typically, classes would be held on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, but those are now off days so teachers and staff can prepare for the shift, which will be in place until the first week of January, at which point the decision will be re-evaluated.
Meanwhile, the school board also voted to allow football and volleyball teams to complete their seasons, while winter sports will transition to a virtual format until further notice. Other programs and activities that are currently happening in-person will go 100% virtual beginning Nov. 20.
"The board’s decision is based on the spread of the coronavirus across Hennepin County and the City of Bloomington. Hennepin County currently has a COVID positivity rate of greater than 5%, which means the spread of the virus has reached a concerning level, according to state public health officials," the district's announcement says.
"We also continue to see a rise in confirmed cases among students and staff, and hundreds of others quarantined as a result of close contact exposure. On Monday alone, 95 students and staff were either in isolation or quarantined."