Edina Public Schools is seeing a rise in COVID-19 case numbers among students, according to a recent email sent to families and employees in the district.

Superintendent John Schultz stated in the email that as of Oct. 30, the district had not yet chosen to shift learning models. But he did write that the district is sharing this data to provide an update on its case numbers. This data comes at a time when two other metro school districts, Osseo and Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, announced plans to shift fully online after cases have risen in their communities and statewide.

According to Minnesota Department of Health numbers released last week, Hennepin County’s 14-day rate of COVID-19 cases per 10,000 increased to 28.88, a rise of 3.49 from the week before.

According to the district email, the number of students who are in quarantine or isolation jumped from 497 in September to 823 in October. Over that same period, an additional 18 students have tested positive for the virus. The number of staff in quarantine or isolation also increased – from 87 in September to 161 in October. But the number of staff testing positive over that same period decreased by four staff members.

Schultz stated in the email that behind these numbers are people who have had their lives impacted by COVID-19 exposure.

Among custodial staff, two head engineers and three custodians are undergoing a 14-day quarantine, while another is out for at least 10 days. The district is shifting staff to fill some roles.

Health services staff are being overwhelmed with symptom assessments and phone calls for contract tracing, Schultz wrote. Additional health services positions opened in response.

Earlier last week, a positive COVID-19 case was also confirmed in a kindergarten class, which necessitated that the classroom shift to distance learning. The cohort included 20 students and four staff members, who must quarantine for 14 days.

The email noted that this is not the first classroom in the district to shift to distance learning, though it is part of a classroom closure trend in the district.

Next steps

Late last month, Bloomington Public Health’s Nick Kelley advised the Edina School Board to begin planning for a potential move to virtual learning for secondary students.

“Due to the increasing level of community spread, distance learning will likely be the recommended course of action to consider in the coming weeks for secondary students. Based on the cases per 10,000 and Safe Learning Plan guidance, elementary students should still be able to do hybrid learning,” Kelley noted in his statement, which was included in the School Board’s Oct. 22 special meeting agenda.

According to the email sent last week to families and staff, the district will use a variety of data to decide whether there will be a shift in learning models. This will be based on city, district and county numbers, plus other trends. It will also be assessed on a school-by-school basis.

Decisions on athletics and other activities will be made on a case-by-case basis. A move to district learning does not mean athletics and activities must end, the district email noted. The district will follow guidance from MDH and adhere to the decisions from the Minnesota State High School League about winter sports.

If during contract tracing, a student is determined to be in close contact with someone who has tested positive, they will receive a phone call from the school’s Health Services office or an administrator. A date for returning to school will also be set at that point.

Schultz added, “We want to acknowledge that COVID fatigue is real, especially as our skies darken and the snow flies early. … Please know that persistence and resilience in the face of hardship may be among the most important lessons our children take away from this pandemic.”

– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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