Editor's note: In an email to parents and guardians on Friday, Nov. 20, New York Mills Superintendent Blaine Novak detailed an extension of distance learning for all grades through Dec. 4. The learning model will continue to be evaluated weekly, though the number of COVID-19 cases and staff members and students out of school for a positive test or quarantine are expected to continue to rise.
In the letter, Novak states:
I trust this email finds you well and dealing with the ramifications of the COVID pandemic to the best of our abilities. The positive COVID case counts throughout our state are skyrocketing. At school, we continue to monitor these numbers, both within the county and at our local level to determine the most appropriate learning model during these times.
Last week in an email to all families, I mentioned that we will continue to monitor the current conditions and adjust our learning model when possible. After meeting with the Minnesota Department of Health Regional Support Team and Otter Tail County Public Health, New York Mills will remain in distance learning through Dec. 4. We will continue to evaluate this on a weekly basis and pursue a logical progression to bringing our students back in the safest manner possible.
Current conditions shared with us are daunting. Otter Tail County reported 65 new cases and a death today. The positivity rate has doubled in the past week and the 14 day case rate is 123 per 10,000, with an expectation of over 170 next week. Our local community has reported 31 new cases since last week and 5 to 6 new cases per day. Our area communities are seeing similar statistics. In our building, we have confirmed 31 cumulative cases of students and staff. Currently, we have 9 staff out due to COVID, quarantine, or exclusions. The projection is for these statistics to continue to rise in forthcoming weeks.
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We recognize the hardship that distance learning poses. Please know that New York Mills Public School is open during distance learning, and we will continue to support our students in every manner possible. School aged child care is available for our K–6 students, and school support is offered. Meal pick up service is now available for individuals 18 years and younger in the household from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every day school is in session.
As we continue to monitor the current conditions and work with our regional support team, we will prioritize in person learning in the safest manner possible. In the meantime, please continue to take necessary precautions to keep yourself and everyone around you safe. To help us gauge conditions in our school community, parents are encouraged to call the school if their child is symptomatic or tests COVID positive. We are all in this together.
Please feel free to reach out to the school with any questions.