As spring break looms for K-12 students, schools in Edina are addressing upticks in COVID-19 cases.

During the month of March, several Edina schools have seen rises in case counts among their populations. Our Lady of Grace Catholic School moved to distance learning for about a week earlier this month and Edina Public Schools Superintendent John Schultz has sent emails to families about the heightening virus concern.

“We have growing concern about the uptick of COVID-19 cases in the Edina community,” Schultz said in the March 11 email.

Our Lady of Grace, which has more than 660 students, decided to move to distance learning March 10 due to a rising number of cases among its students, said Father Kevin Finnegan. The school was approaching the Minnesota Department of Health threshold to recommend distance learning so the shift was a way to “more proactively take a pause for a few days,” he said.

The Catholic school did not provide specific numbers regarding cases.

As of March 8, Hennepin County reported Edina’s 14-day case rate per 10,000 residents, the standard for measuring spread in the community, as 34, according to the Edina school district email. This was an increase of 8.2 over the prior week’s report and the fourth consecutive week the city’s numbers had increased.

Additionally, MDH has reported an increase in case rate for the third-consecutive 14-day period, as of March 6 in Hennepin County. The most current number, reflecting the 14-day range of Feb. 21 through March 6, is 18.97. The case rate before that was 17.62.

MDH’s most recent 14-day county case rates, which will reflect March 7-20, have not yet been released.

For March 6-12 in Edina Public Schools, 11 pre-K through grade 5 students had tested positive, 116 were out of school due to symptoms and 199 were close contacts and in quarantine. In grades 6-12, 15 students tested positive. Fifty five were out of school due to symptoms and 48 were identified as close contacts and in quarantine. Only one secondary staff member has tested positive during this time, according to a March 18 district email. Some of these numbers increased and some decreased from the week prior.

As of the weekend of March 13-14, most district employees who wished to receive the vaccine should have gotten at least one dose by then, the March 11 email indicated.

Bloomington Public Health’s Nick Kelley, who advises the Edina school district, said he had anticipated that March would be a tough month. “It’s something we’re watching pretty closely,” he said.

And the outbreak of the B117 variant – which is often said to have originated in the United Kingdom – in Carver County is also a concern, he said.

Throughout the 2020-21 school year, Our Lady of Grace Catholic School has spent a few weeks in distance learning, including astretch after Christmas intentionally after potential gatherings during the holiday, Finnegan said. Also, certain individual grades or classes would sometimes need to move to virtual learning on their own, he said.

But overall, Finnegan said, “we’ve been able to manage (the pandemic) pretty well.”

In the Edina school district, a student testing program called “Test The Nest” is in the process of launching. This program will group registered students, on a voluntary basis, in pools in order to better track and identify asymptomatic cases in the district’s schools.

With COVID-19 cases still popping up, Kelley stresses that the pandemic is “not done” and that it is vital to get tested. Mitigation measures, he added, are “so important.”

And with spring break starting next week, running March 29 through April 2, unease about travel remains, according to the March 11 district email to families. In that message, Schultz stressed that families should follow MDH and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention travel recommendations.

– Follow Caitlin Anderson on Twitter @EdinaSunCurrent

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