Sep. 28—To meet the challenge of rising COVID-19 cases in the district, Austin Public Schools is moving from Stage 2 to Stage 3 in its COVID-19 matrix, which will install a mask mandate and new quarantine protocols throughout the district starting on Wednesday, Sept. 29.
In a letter to parents and staff Tuesday, Superintendent Dr. Joey Page explained the move was based on updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control.
"The CDC provided updated guidance last week that alters the approach of the quarantine of close contacts," Page's letter said. "Moving forward, all close contacts will be required to quarantine for a minimum of 10 days and can be shortened to seven days with a documented negative COVID test result."
The test needs to be completed on day five or later of the quarantine and Page explained that quarantine is not needed for students in the classroom if both students were masked.
"Due to the change in the protocols of quarantine, the increased transmission of COVID-19, and our goal to preserve in-person instruction, the School Board has determined that the District needs to move from State 2 to Stage 3," Page said.
The mask mandate extends to staff, students, and visitors inside district buildings until further notice.
Weekly numbers released by the school on Friday show a steady rise from the start of the school year, but still haven't reached as high as the second week of the year when the district reported 42 cases of COVID-19 at APS.
However, last Friday's report reflected 36 cases of COVID-19, an increase from 31 and 14 cases the two weeks prior. Despite the rise though, the cases reported in the district are still less than 1% of the total staff and student population.
The Sept. 11-17 report of 31 cases represents just .5% of that population according to information from the district.
"Public health agencies will continue to guide the District's decision-making process as the school year progresses," Page said in Tuesday's letter. "Our goal is to provide as much in-person learning as possible based on COVID-19 case rates, state guidance, and the ability to staff our schools and fill absences adequately. The move to Stage 3 will hopefully allow in-person learning to continue."
For additional safety measures and information, visit https://www.austin.k12.mn.us/district-resources/covid-19-information.
Michael Stoll contributed to this story