When the 2021-2022 school year starts later this month, Aug. 30, masks will not be required inside or outside Waconia School District facilities.

The School District 110 Board of Education approved a return to school proposal Monday that applies its local authority to implement a safe learning plan. The plan takes effect immediately, but could change based on guidelines and requirements from the Minnesota departments of education and health, the governor, and local jurisdictions like Carver County Public Health.

Although not required, the policy states that masks will continue to be recommended for students, teachers, staff and visitors (ages 2 and older) who are not yet fully vaccinated, and allows and encourages masks for those who wish to continue to wear them.

Face coverings will be required on all district-provided transportation, regardless of vaccination status. That’s a Transportation Security Administration and Centers for Disease Control mandate, not a local decision, note school district administrators.

In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors, although masks are recommended in crowded outdoor settings, according to the plan.

The school district will continue to monitor case rates and stay in contact with Carver County Public Health throughout the school year, and adjust accordingly.

Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccinations are recommended, but not a requirement to attend school, according to the plan.

Around 100 people overflowed school board meeting chambers at Waconia City Hall on Monday. Most who spoke supported a mask optional policy, which also has been adopted by many neighboring school districts. Only a couple meeting participants urged the board to apply a consistent mask-on approach.

In presenting the proposed policy, Superintendent Pat Devine said that with vaccine availability and more knowledge about the virus “people are more protected than a year ago.”

The safe learning plan as approved also outlines provisions for health screening and protocols for confirmed COVID -19 cases, including contact tracing and quarantining. It also outlines provisions for cleaning and sanitizing, and plans around school activities and cafeteria lunches.

Board members in attendance unanimously approved the plan, but a few offered a caveat that “if conditions change and the district gets a mandate, plans will have to change too.”

Meanwhile, in cooperation with more than a dozen school districts, Waconia Public Schools also will offer a fully online option for K-12 families. The collaborative program called the Southwest Metro e-Learning Enterprise (SEE) will be available throughout the year, offering full-time and part-time curriculum with live online teaching of Minnesota Department of Education approved courses for all grades kindergarten through 12. SWMetro has been offering online courses for more than a decade, district officials point out.

Families who enroll in the online program will still maintain a spot in school if a student wants to return in person.

The complete safe learning plan is available on the district website isd110.org, and updates will be provided regularly.

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