Some schools close briefly or reinstate mask mandate

·2 min read

Jan. 14—Rising illnesses prompted one area school district to cancel two days of classes and another to hold one day of remote learning. The largest district in the region reported nearly 400 cases in one week and is warning schools or individual classrooms may need to go remote.

Classes in Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Public Schools were canceled Friday and are canceled Monday. Supt. Mark Westerburg cited COVID-19, flu and other illnesses among students and staff.

"At these levels of absences we cannot function effectively in the education of our students," he said in an announcement Thursday. "We are doing this to separate and hopefully slow down the spread of these illnesses."

St. Peter Public Schools had a distance learning day Thursday, followed by already planned no school days Friday and Monday. Supt. Bill Gronseth said in an announcement Wednesday he hoped the extended break would "curb the rapid spread" of COVID-19 among district students and staff.

The district reported 54 active cases among students and 11 among staff as of Wednesday. Over 30 of the cases were at the high school.

Another 59 students but no staff were absent Wednesday while in quarantines, according to data on the district's website.

Mankato Area Public Schools sent a letter to parents Thursday telling them to be prepared for the potential to need to switch to distance learning.

The letter indicated the district is not considering a districtwide closure but could move individual schools or classes to remote learning.

The notice lists "two situations that may necessitate" a switch: "If a school has a significant number of teachers absent or if there are three or more positive cases in a classroom."

Mankato Area Public Schools reported 379 new cases among its students and staff Jan. 7-13. That is by far a weekly record.

There are 165 known cases at early childhood programs and elementary schools, according to data posted Friday. There are 123 cases at the high schools, 85 at the middle schools and six in other district buildings.

A return of mask requirements at the district's high schools went into effect Thursday and will last for at least two weeks. Masks were already required at other schools in the district.

The letter also notes the state has not yet given schools the green light to reduce the isolation period following a positive COVID-19 test to five days. So the district is continuing to require a 10-day minimum.

Several school districts in the Twin Cities and Rochester Public Schools have or are moving to remote learning for longer terms.

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