All Waconia Public School students were able to go back to in-person classes this week for the first time in months.
At a special meeting Monday evening, the District 110 School Board decided on a 5-2 vote to bring students in grades 6-12 back to in-person learning Tuesday after spring break. Early childhood through grade 5 students resumed in-person instruction Monday as they have been doing now for several weeks.
The decision on middle school and high school students was consistent with the learning plan finalized early this month before the week off from classes, but went against a recommendation from state and county health agencies for another week pause on in-person classes over concerns about an outbreak of the B117 COVID-19 variant in Carver County.
Most non-varsity activities remain paused for one more week after being limited before spring break at Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Carver County Public Health (CCPH) guidance.
Representatives from the MDH were at Monday’s school board meeting to explain concerns about what is known as the UK variant – primarily that it’s more contagious and has a higher mortality rate than other coronavirus variants. However, most board members voted to stick with the district’s earlier learning plan, indicating that schools have mitigation protocols in place, that most cases of the variant have been traced to sports activities, not the classroom, and that another few days’ pause wouldn’t necessarily change variant conditions.
John Weinand and Rachel Myers were the two board members who supported the delay, noting that the additional pause could mitigate the carryover of variant clusters and help keep kids back in the classroom when they do return.
For now, students are back, and in a letter to parents Superintendent Pat Devine said, “We are hopeful that ISD110 can reduce the spread of COVID-19 and the new B117 variant as it remains our goal to stay with in-person learning.”
To help ensure that students are safe upon returning to in-person learning, MDH/CCPH and Waconia Public Schools are highly encouraging students and staff to take advantage of the COVID testing pop-up clinics so those who are unknowingly contagious can quarantine to reduce the exposure to other students and staff. Also, for parents to report to the district’s COVID advisory team if a student does test positive.
In the meantime, parents continue to have the option to request distance learning for their students by contacting the school office.