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Minnesota schools make adjustments as COVID cases surge

Some districts are warning parents to get prepared for distance learning. Others have opted to cancel a couple of days of school.

COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. — The latest data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows 30 more people have died from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. There were also more than 5,000 new cases reported.

Several Minnesota schools are dealing with the surge by making adjustments to in-person learning.

Monday, Nov. 29, through at least winter break, all South Washington County elementary schools will implement changes including eating meals in class instead of the cafeteria, having recess separate from other classes, and limiting overall movement throughout each school. 

"The way we responded, instead of moving to distance learning, is to basically quarantine students within the school within their classroom," superintendent Julie Nielsen said. "Right now, it's just the elementary level because we're seeing such an explosion of cases."

This past week, the district tracked over 144 positive cases within its elementary schools. They're not alone. Minnetonka Public Schools reports 60 active cases at its Groveland Elementary alone. Shakopee Public Schools is extending Thanksgiving break by two days over a rise in cases within the district and county.

This week, the Minnesota Department of Education sent a letter to families explaining the state health department's best practice recommendations for school.

"As much as we need our schools to implement policies ... we also need our students and families to support those policies by wearing a mask to school, getting vaccinated, participating in regular COVID-19 testing, and doing all of the other things that continue to be important like physical distancing and handwashing," education commissioner Dr. Heather Mueller said.

With vaccines recently made available to kids 5 and up, Nielson says she hopes conditions will improve.

"We have a vaccination clinic taking place here in our district on Sunday and we have all 800 spaces filled with students to be vaccinated so that is a very positive sign," Nielsen said.

As schools continue to adjust, Nielsen is asking the public to help by considering a job with South Washington County Schools. She says there are vacancies in every department and a bachelor's degree in education is not required for many of the open positions.

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