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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Ely schools sticking with current learning plan

Hybrid, in-person models in place through Thanksgiving break

Keith Vandervort
Posted 11/19/20

ELY – The northern St. Louis County coronavirus dashboard data report blew past the 50 per 10,000 cases milestone last week. Dramatic jumps in regional and statewide COVID-19 case numbers …

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Ely schools sticking with current learning plan

Hybrid, in-person models in place through Thanksgiving break

Posted

ELY – The northern St. Louis County coronavirus dashboard data report blew past the 50 per 10,000 cases milestone last week. Dramatic jumps in regional and statewide COVID-19 case numbers continue to be reported. Yet, the Ely school district continues to ride out the storm.
Barring a dramatic uptick in local community coronavirus cases or confirmation of any positive cases in the school buildings, ISD 696 said they will stick with the current learning model at least through the Thanksgiving break.
The Washington building (grades K-5) currently maintains an in-person learning model five days per week. The Memorial building (grades 6-12) continues in a hybrid models that includes in-person learning for two days a week.
Starting this week, all students will be dismissed at noon every Wednesday to comply with the Governor’s recent executive order requiring all school districts to provide teachers with additional class preparation time as they balance in-person and distance learning models for their classes.
The Ely Safe School Advisory Council met for its weekly update session last Thursday and many members were surprised to learn that the COVID-19 dashboard indicated a report of 60.1 positive cases per 10,000 people in the northern county reporting area. That is up from 42.7 just a week earlier, and 25.5 just two weeks ago. The bi-weekly case rate measurement lags behind newly collected data by two weeks to ensure accuracy.
By comparison, the central St. Louis County dashboard indicated a positive case rate of 41.6 cases per 10,000 people. The Duluth area reported a 54.26 case rate.
According to ISD 696 Superintendent Erik Erie, Duluth area schools are now at a completely in-person learning model and have suspended all school activities.
“All schools in St. Louis County went up significantly (39.8 to 50.7), and we were told to expect that,” Erie said. “County health officials told us that they expect the northern county case rate to go back down toward 50 for next week, so we hope that is something we can look forward to.”
The Zip code case rate data (for 55731) increased slightly last week, from 22.5 to 24.16 positives cases per 10,000 people, according to Erie. He said the state reported a record 56 deaths in one day last week. Total deaths in the state, late last week, stood at 2,754. In the United States, there are more than 11 million cases of coronavirus as of last weekend.
“These are all sobering statistics,” Erie said, “and yet we still have our students in school here. The best thing that we can say is that we aren’t seeing a lot of transmission in our local school. There is a lot of transmission around Minnesota, but we’ve been very fortunate that (COVID-19) hasn’t hit us in that respect.”
As of Monday, the local positive coronavirus test count in the school is at three, according to Erie. The individuals are in quarantine and no groups are affected. The cumulative positive case total is now at 10 for the entire school year.
Aubrey Hoover, from the St. Louis County Public Health Department, consulted with Ely school administrators last week in anticipation of the positive coronavirus case count reaching 60 per 10,000 and what that means for the safe learning model.
Megan Anderson, 6-12 principal, said, “She advised that we stay where we’re at through at least Thanksgiving. She noted that there are more positive cases reported in the northwest part of our region, as compared to our area.”
Anne Oelke, K-5 principal added, “A big difference is that (schools in that) area have direct contact with the positive cases and they can pinpoint where the cases are happening, such as with social gatherings and slumber parties. I feel very confident in what they are telling us because they can pinpoint those families over there with the positive cases.”
Erie added that a consultation with Minnesota Department of Health officials remains scheduled for Monday, Nov. 23. “We will re-evaluate our learning plans after the Thanksgiving break,” he said.
The ISD 696 Christmas break begins Tuesday, Dec. 23 and classes resume Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.

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