The entire Wadena-Deer Creek ninth grade class, about 75 students, is in distance learning due to contact tracing from COVID-19 exposure. W-DC Superintendent Lee Westrum said he hopes sending the students home will contain and stop the spread. The students will be out until Tuesday, April 27.

If students test positive for COVID or develop symptoms, their return to school will change. The contact tracing process due to possible positive tests would also impact other students’ return to school.

W-DC Middle/High School Principal Tyler Church said the larger class sizes in the ninth grade level, compared to junior and senior classes, make it harder to separate students. Thus, when a student tests positive more students are considered close contacts (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes) within the contact tracing process.

Between sixth and twelfth grade, over 100 students are in distance learning due to exposure or positive tests, according to Westrum. At the elementary school, preschool and daycare students who were out are returning; one teacher is also out.

Westrum said the increased cases in the area have been a trend the district has been watching for the past several weeks. While 70% of staff have received the COVID-19 vaccine and some students and staff have previously had COVID-19 (both of which build immunity to the virus), students largely have not received the vaccine. At an optional vaccine clinic for 10-12th graders, 33 students of the 150 eligible received the vaccine. All Minnesotans age 16 years and older are eligible for a vaccine.