Just days after one staff member at Roosevelt Elementary School in Detroit Lakes tested positive for COVID-19, several more cases were confirmed among the staff — prompting district administration to switch Roosevelt from in-person to distance learning as of Wednesday, Oct. 7. In addition, a positive test for a staff member at Lincoln Education Center prompted that building's temporary closure to the public on Monday.
"All told, we now have 18 staff members out who have tested positive, are quarantining, or are awaiting test results," said Detroit Lakes Superintendent Mark Jenson on Monday afternoon. "Obviously, there is an exposure situation happening at Roosevelt, so we felt that it was in the best interest of staff and students to make the shift."
He added that it would be difficult to fully staff the building for even a hybrid (combination of in-person and distance learning) situation given the number of staff who are out at this time.
After taking the time on Monday to ensure that all Roosevelt students had any necessary technology and other education materials before sending them home, Jenson said they would be suspending classes at the school on Tuesday to give everyone a day to prepare for the shift, then begin full-time distance learning on Wednesday.
He added that they hope to be able to move back to at least a hybrid or fully in-person teaching model by the time classes resume after next week's MEA break. Becker County's volume of active COVID-19 cases is on the rise, however.
"Cases (of COVID-19) seem to be moving in the wrong direction for schools — that's statewide, not just in Becker County," Jenson said.
In addition to the situation at Roosevelt, he said, they also had a staff member at Lincoln Education Center — home of the district's preschool and early childhood programming — who tested positive for the virus this past week.
"Due to Lincoln’s (small) size and the close quarters and a lot of intermingling, we ended up deciding to close that building for a couple of days to basically go in and sanitize everything," Jenson said, adding that they hoped to reopen the building to staff and students on Wednesday.
"We recognize the frustrations for families," said Jenson. "It's really hard for us to make these decisions. Hopefully we can get our kids back in the buildings as soon as possible."
In a message sent out to parents on Monday, Jenson said: “We were notified by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) of several additional lab confirmed cases of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) with adult members of the Roosevelt community with exposure dates ranging from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.
“We have worked with MDH to identify those who had close contact with the cases, and have communicated with them individually and those individuals are currently under quarantine. The risk of exposure for other individuals present in the building on these dates is no greater than the risk of contracting the virus in the general community.”
At this time, Jenson’s message continues, there have been no confirmed cases in students, only adult staff: “With staff quarantining, awaiting test results, or positive cases, it is in the best interest for all students and staff to move to a distance learning model so we can slow any further spread.”
Roosevelt will stay in the full-time distance learning model "until numbers decrease and (we) can resume learning in the building," he added.
Students will continue to have their regular classroom teachers as their distance learning teachers. Their school days will begin with live morning meetings, and teachers will also have live office hours; teachers will share their schedules with families as soon as possible. Live instruction opportunities will increase by Friday, Oct. 9.
Students will be bringing school devices home with them at the end of today’s school day, along with tech user device agreements. Families should sign these agreements, take a photo of the signed agreement, and send those photos to their teachers via Seesaw.
Students who are in need of internet service at home, or who are not at school today and will need to pick up a device, should contact the Roosevelt school office this Monday or Tuesday to make arrangements, at 218-847-1106.
Families with two Tier 1 employees (“essential workers'') may be eligible for district-provided child care while their child’s school is in full-time distance learning mode. Contact Annmarie Lacher at 218-847-4418 for eligibility rules and any other questions.