Updated guidance from MDH gives school the choice on masking for now

Forest Lake Area Schools will not require, but recommend, masks be worn by students in facilities this upcoming year. The announcement comes after the both the Minnesota Department of Health released new guidelines and best practices on July 28 regarding the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.

The primary recommendations outlined in the best practices document are: any student 12 years or older should be vaccinated; all students, faculty and visitors should wear masks inside of school buildings; students should be distanced at least 3 feet from one another; students and faculty should stay home if they feel sick; unvaccinated individuals should be tested regularly; and schools should have good ventilation, cleaning, contact tracing and hand-washing habits. 

The MDH says these are recommendations, not mandates, for schools. 

Forest Lake Area Schools Superintendent Steve Massey sent out a statement on Thursday, July 29 informing students, parents, and staff that while there will be no mask mandate inside school buildings, however, since there is a federal mandate for masks to be worn on public transportation, the Forest Lake Area Schools will require masks to be worn on school buses. 

“We will continue to monitor COVID-19 activity within our schools and community, along with any updates to state and federal guidance,” Massey said in his statement.

Massey recommended that anyone who is eligible for the vaccine should get it, but it is not required. 

Forest Lake Area Schools will not be offering full distance learning as an option for grades 7-12, according to the statement; families can call their school principal if they have questions about that. However, Ranger Academy distance learning will be offered for grade levels pre-K-6. Interested students and parents need to complete the online registration form by Thursday, Aug. 5.

Massey’s statement said there will be more updates coming from the school district and individual schools as the start of school gets closer. 

“There are still some details that still need to be worked out for this year’s COVID-related plans,” said Renae Reedy, the communications coordinator for the district. 

Lakes International Language Academy is still considering protocols for the fall. Their summer protocols encourage students to wear masks, but masks are not required. Faculty members are required to wear a mask if they work with students under 12 years old and have not shared their plans for fully vaccinated students and employees with the school. 

North Lakes Academy is not offering an online learning option during the 2021-2022 school year.

“This shouldn’t be a surprise, there is a heavy recommendation and guidance towards implementing as many safety measures as needed to ensure that school can operate in person and as functional as possible,” Cam Stottler, Executive Director at North Lakes Academy, said on Friday July, 30. Masks are not required for students or faculty to wear masks inside the school. Unvaccinated individuals are encouraged to wear masks.

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