Westonka’s primary and middle school students will no longer be required to wear face masks while inside school buildings beginning Oct. 4.

The district announced the change on its website Friday morning, noting that the level of school transmission for COVID-19 at each of its schools has consistently remained under its threshold for requiring masks.

The change means that come Monday, no student or staff member in any of Westonka’s schools will be required to wear a mask except while on transportation services, but the district is strongly recommending that they be worn, citing a continued level of high transmission in the surrounding area. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has defined high transmission as a 7-day case rate of 100 or more cases per 100,000 population.

The rate of community transmission for the Westonka school district zip codes has continued to rise every week since Sept. 2 and was on Sept. 30, the most recent data available, at 267.6 cases per 100,000.

While the surrounding area is in a state of high transmission, the district is abiding by an even more localized plan put in place to respond to school-level transmission as measured by the percent of students and staff absent with COVID-19 or COVID-like symptoms.

Should any K-7 school building reach a threshold of 3 percent absent, school leaders would again meet to decide whether additional mitigation strategies should be implemented, including such options as once more requiring that everyone in the building be masked for a minimum of two weeks or requiring quarantine periods for classrooms.

If school transmission were to reach more than 5 percent absent at any Westonka schools, including Mound Westonka High School where masking has not yet been required this academic year, the district’s COVID-19 support team would meet with Minnesota Department of Health before taking action. That action could include required masking and “other mitigation strategies” at all grade levels while continuing with in-person learning; it could also prompt a learning model change.

As of Sept. 29, Grandview Middle School was showing 1.4 percent absent due to COVID-19 or COVID-like symptoms. At MWHS, it was 1.2 percent and at both Hilltop Primary and Shirley Hills Primary it was 1 just percent.

The district reported 24 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, te majority of them at the middle and high schools. MWHS and Grandview each had recorded eight new cases, while Hilltop had six and Shirley Hills two. No cases have yet been reported at the Early Learning Center.

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