Mask mandate in place currently for most elementary schools

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise among students in the Forest Lake Area School District just three weeks into the school year, many schools are now requiring students to mask up again. 

The Forest Lake Area schools returned to in-person learning at the start of September following federal and state guidelines with no mask mandates, only mitigation protocols that include a recommendation to wear a mask, to maintain good hygiene and to receive the vaccination if eligible for students and faculty.

The school board approved a protocol at its meeting on Aug. 26 for grades K-6 to follow guidelines based on the percentage of students with either confirmed cases and/or COVID-like symptoms. The matrix protocol requires a school to mask students for 10 days if students exceed 5% COVID-like symptoms and/or confirmed cases.

“Right now, we’ve exceeded that 5% threshold in all of our [elementary] schools except Lino Lakes, and they were at 4.5% yesterday,” Superintendent Steve Massey said on Tuesday, Sept. 28. 

Massey said they are communicating with parents who call their children out of school to determine whether or not the student has COVID-19 symptoms or is ill from another cause to ensure only students with COVID-19 symptoms are counted toward the 5% threshold. 

As of Monday, Sept. 20, the secondary school COVID-confirmed-case data show one case at Forest Lake Area Community School; 23 cases at Forest Lake Area High School; and two cases at Forest Lake Area Middle School. 

“We’re notifying families if we have a positive case in a classroom, so families can make a decision on whether or not to keep their kids home,” Massey said.

At the high school level, the administration and Massey encourage testing, vaccinations, and for students or faculty to stay home if they feel sick. However, no mask protocols have been set into place like the elementary schools.

“We’re fiercely committed to trying to keep ourselves from having kids learn remotely,” Massey said. 

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