A small school district located southwest of Duluth is switching from in-person instruction to full distance learning due to the development of numerous people with COVID-19-related symptoms.
Wrenshall Schools Superintendent Kimberly Belcastro wrote a letter to families on Monday saying the district is dealing with a "high number of staff members and students that are out ill due to COVID-19 symptoms."
In an email to Bring Me The News, Belcastro said Thursday that the school has one confirmed case of a non-teacher staff member. She said "several staff members" with COVID-19-like symptoms "has caused great difficulty for the small district with 367 students."
All classes Tuesday and Wednesday were canceled, with the district starting full-on distance learning Thursday. The district doesn't plan to attempt in-person instruction again until Nov. 9, which marks the start of the second quarter.
"The difficulty comes with people with symptoms or people with sick children and not having the availability of enough substitute teachers," Belcastro added.
Wrenshall is located in Carlton County, which in the two-week period ending Sept. 5 had a county infection rate of 8.16 cases per 10,000 residents, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). That falls within the back-to-school guidance that allows for in-person classes for all students in all grade levels.
The MDH releases updated county infection rates on Thursdays. The latest report, which helps schools make informed decisions about holding classes in-person or virtually, showed an increasing number of counties that meet the threshold for 100% distance learning.
Counties exceeding the threshold of 50 cases per 10,000 residents in the Sept. 17 report were Blue Earth, Lyon, Stevens, Waseca, Winona and Yellow Medicine counties.
- 0-9 cases per 10,000 residents: In-person learning for all students
- 10-19 cases per 10,000 residents: In-person learning for elementary students; hybrid learning for secondary students
- 20-29 cases per 10,000 residents: Hybrid learning for all students
- 30-49 cases per 10,000 residents: Hybrid learning for elementary students; distance learning for secondary students
- 50+ cases per 10,000 residents: Distance learning for all students