14-Day COVID-19 Case Rate Soars, Schools Shift to Distance Learning
All public school districts in the northwest suburbs are either preparing to switch or have already shifted to distance learning. The changes happen as the 14-day COVID-19 case rate that districts use for guidance on learning model decisions has soared.
According to the 14-day rate released Nov. 19 by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), there are 90.37 cases per 10,000 people in Hennepin County. That’s by far the highest case rate since the state began releasing the data to guide school districts. The latest case rate measured cases from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, so it’s likely to go even higher based on more recent case numbers.
The previous high was 51.37 cases per 10,000 people, which was released a week prior and measured cases between Oct. 18 and Oct. 31. MDH recommends distance learning for all students when there are at least 50 cases per 10,000 people in a county.
On Friday, Nov. 20, the Minnesota Department of Health reported 6,812 new cases and 68 new deaths. Of the newly reported deaths, 44 were residents of long-term care facilities. That brought the total state numbers to 256,700 cases and 3,150 deaths since the pandemic started.
School Districts Move to Distance Learning
The rise in cases coincides with school districts making plans to shift to distance learning through at least the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. This week the Osseo School Board voted to move all prekindergarten through fifth-grade students to distance learning starting Monday, Nov. 23. Middle and high school students in the Osseo School District moved to distance learning Nov. 9.
“The rapid increase in virus activity in the communities served by our district is alarming and has now reached a critical level,” Osseo Superintendent Cory McIntyre wrote in a letter to families.
“In addition, high numbers of staff absences have created significant concern about having enough staff at school to provide instruction while maintaining health and safety protocols (especially group size and social distancing requirements),” he added.
McIntyre pointed out that the staffing shortage was so dire at Garden City Elementary in Brooklyn Center that the school had to move to distance learning effective immediately.
The Hopkins School District, meanwhile, will shift to distance learning on Nov. 23 with the hope of possibly resuming in-person learning in some capacity by Jan. 25.
In the Wayzata School District, elementary students will shift to distance learning on Nov. 30. Middle school students will shift as well on that date, with the exception of Central Middle School, which moved to distance learning on Nov. 16. Anoka-Hennepin schools will also shift elementary students to distance learning Nov. 30.
Other northwest suburban districts that have already shifted to distance learning systemwide include Robbinsdale Area Schools and Brooklyn Center Community Schools.