Board and superintendent stress a flexible approach will be key for year
Further details of the school district’s pandemic-related policies and guidelines were approved by the school board at its meeting on Thursday, Aug. 5.
On Thursday, July 29, Superintendent Steve Massey sent out a statement describing the district’s planned COVID-19 protocols for the start of the school year. They will follow protocols from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and only recommend masks indoors, and not require them for fully in-person courses. However, masks are still required on the school buses to follow federal pandemic protocols. The COVID-19 vaccine for students 12 years and older also is not required.
“It is super important that our families and staff understand that if they are sick or not feeling well that they stay home; we know that this virus is highly contagious,” Massey said.
He said the school district will report positive coronavirus cases to the Minnesota Department of Health.
Students should maintain a distance of at least 3 feet from other students when possible, and there will be a continued emphasis on hand washing and cleaning. But drinking fountains will be open and recess will resume.
“We are very cognizant of our need to monitor and be willing to adjust,” Massey said.
Materials will be provided for kids to work on at home, for those staying home, with teachers checking in. Last year, about 450 students attended school virtually, while about 65 elementary students have enrolled in Ranger Academy, a virtual option for the 2021 school year. Online learning will not be provided for those in the secondary grade levels.“I think we’re on the right track here, and I just think we need to be just very flexible. That if things start, we’re starting to do a lot of contact tracing, and we’re seeing that a lot of people are coming to school with COVID or we’re becoming a place where it gets spread, then I think we’re going to have to buckle down a little bit,” board member Rob Rapheal said at the school board meeting on Thursday, Aug. 5.
At the school board meeting on Thursday, Aug. 19, a group of about 50 parents and their children gathered outside of the Forest Lake Area School District Office to thank Massey for not requiring masks or vaccinations for the start of the school year.
A similar sized group of parents and community members attended the school board meeting on Aug. 5 and some spoke during the listening session.
“We had 14 speakers who talked about the topics including critical race theory, masks regarding COVID in our schools, discrimination, choice and Equity Alliance Minnesota,” said board member Alex Keto after the listening session during the board meeting.
Laura Ndirangu, a mother to kids in the school district, is one of the individuals who spoke during the listening session.
Ndirangu is part of one of three families that started the group Forest Lake Connected for Kids about a month ago to connect parents and community members together to communicate more closely with the Forest Lake Area School Board.
“It’s about parents having the right to make health care and educational decisions for their children, so it’s not about mandating for anybody else,” Ndirangu said regarding why they formed the group and started attending the school board meetings.
A primary goal of the group is to attain “personal liberty” for students, families and the school community.