One month into a challenging school year, the coordinator of Eden Prairie School District’s COVID-19 response says students and teachers in school under the current hybrid system are doing well keeping one another safe.
“It’s been great,” said Dr. Ashley Schaefer, Ed.D., the district’s special programs coordinator who also supervises the district’s school nurses.
Mask wearing, social distancing, vigilant hand washing and extensive cleaning protocols have been at the core of keeping students and staff safe, she said. District guidelines require that students are temperature checked each morning and staff members are required to complete a health screening via an app each day.
Seven Eden Prairie students have tested positive for COVID-19
Seven students have tested positive with COVID-19 as of September 29, Schaefer said. Those infections were not contracted at school, she said.
Quarantines, other than the students involved, were not required in any of the cases after contact tracing determined that none of the students had spent at least 15 minutes within six feet of other students or staff, according to Schaefer. All the students have recovered.
Possible exposures are handled on a case-by-case basis, Schaefer said. The process is based on Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) guidelines. The guidelines are available on the Eden Prairie school district’s website, or at education.mn.gov. The district has more than 8,000 students and schools currently are limited to 50 percent capacity.
Health experts have emphasized that wearing a mask limits exposure to the virus. Schaefer said students and staff have done well following mask requirements. “(Students) really have adapted,” she said.
“We haven’t had a lot of push-back. They’re wearing them. They know it’s an expectation not only of the school district but of the State.” All students and staff members were issued masks on the first day of school.
Schaefer also said that social distancing has worked well in classrooms and that the district is well supplied with Personal Protective Equipment and hand sanitizer.
Review of hybrid / in-person status ongoing: Data approach noted
The district is looking at the possibility of shifting from its current hybrid status to in-person learning for elementary students, Schaefer said. Currently, students in K-2 are in-person; grades 2-12 are hybrid, and others who chose to are completely online. The decision will be based on 14-day case rate data in Hennepin County, information provided by MDH consultants, and input from staff and parents, she said.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s Safe Learning Plan recommends a case rate of fewer than 10 positive cases per 10,000 people to enable return to in-person learning for all students. For elementary grades, the threshold is fewer than 20 cases per 10,000.
According to Hennepin County COVID-19 case data, Eden Prairie was at 12.4 cases per 10,000 for the period of Sept. 8-21, or about 80 cases (based on a population of about 65,000). Hennepin County overall was at 18.7 during the same period.
“It’s week by week and that’s why there’s no rush to make the decision,” Schaefer said. “It’s really just looking at all the data points and making sure that whatever we do is in the best interest of staff and students.”
According to a posting on the district website, school leaders are monitoring data but that no decisions have been made. “The first steps are to engage stakeholders including teachers, staff and families,” the posting said. Families would have two weeks advance notice before any change would go into effect.