Elementary students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District will transition to full distance learning Nov. 30.

The district announced details of the transition Nov. 13, following an increase in the new COVID-19 case rate that put the district over state recommendations for keeping elementary students at school in person.

To prepare for the transition, no elementary classes will be held Nov. 23-24. The changes do not affect middle and high school schedules, which are already using distance learning.

The second trimester is expected to start as distance learning, unless a significant drop in county-level cases or other data suggests otherwise. More information on trimester 2 will come by Nov. 24, according to the district.

The shift comes amidst a surge in COVID-19 cases that prompted Gov. Tim Walz to institute new restrictions on restaurant serving hours as well as restrictions on private social gatherings and receptions for events like funerals and weddings.

Current trends suggest a rapid escalation of case numbers in both Anoka and Hennepin counties, and a growing number of school employees are being impacted by isolation and quarantine, according to the district.

The district’s COVID-19 data tracker showed 54 new confirmed cases among students over the two-week period ending Nov. 14. That puts the 14-day new case rate at 14.9 per 10,000 students, according to district data.

Cases among employees in the district have continued to increase rapidly. As of Nov. 14, 91 new cases had been reported over the previous two weeks. That puts the case rate per 10,000 employees at 126.4, according to district data.

The MN Safe Learning Plan instructs schools to consider distance learning for elementary students when the two-week case rate exceeds 50 per 10,000 residents in a county.

At press time, the most recent case rate reported by the state for Anoka County was 75.9 new cases per 10,000 residents for the 14-day period ending Oct. 31. The rate for that period in Hennepin County was 51 new cases per 10,000 people. But with recent spikes in cases, the current rates are likely higher.

Anoka-Hennepin is considering in-person options for middle and high school students struggling with distance learning as well as kindergarten, first- and second-grade students. An update on those options is expected in December.

Students requiring special education services will be able to continue attending school on their cohort days. Child care for Tier I critical workers should continue, according to the district.

The district will continue to offer meals to families during distance learning. Families that ordered meals for weeks after Nov. 20 should cancel those orders and place new ones. All meals will be free until the end of the school year on June 10, or until funding is exhausted, according to the district. More information on how to order meals can be found on the district website at tinyurl.com/y2ugns3z.

Middle and high school activities and athletics will be managed on a case-by-case basis, with the understanding that COVID-19-related illness could cause the activity to go virtual for a period of time, according to the district.

Anoka-Hennepin recently charged a COVID-19 Data Advisory Committee with reviewing state, county and local data. The surge in cases and staffing challenges across the district means Anoka-Hennepin could not wait for the committee to create a model based primarily on local data, according to the district.

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