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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Face masks required for all at ISD 696

Ely students, staff to start school year with new mandate

Keith Vandervort
Posted 9/3/21

ELY – Beginning immediately, all Ely schools students, staff and visitors are required to wear protective face masks due to public health concerns over the spiking coronavirus pandemic in the …

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Face masks required for all at ISD 696

Ely students, staff to start school year with new mandate

Posted

ELY – Beginning immediately, all Ely schools students, staff and visitors are required to wear protective face masks due to public health concerns over the spiking coronavirus pandemic in the community.

In a letter to ISD 696 families on Friday, the school administrative team said, “In accordance with new Minnesota Department of Health Guidance, recommendations from local health care providers and the public notice from Essentia Health released (on Sept. 2) the Ely Public Schools will require face coverings in all indoor settings K-12 at this time.”

“Essentia Health came out with some messaging (Thursday night),” Superintendent Erik Erie said. “We have also been in contact with our local health community and have been strongly encouraged to change our position from recommending to requiring face masks for all.”

He said the mask mandate, which pertains for indoors only on the ISD 696 campus, takes effect immediately and will be in effect “until further notice.”

The Ely School Safe Learning Plan Advisory Council will meet on Thursday, Sept. 9, to review the mask mandate and discuss other moves to keep students and staff safe.

“We don’t know how long the mandate will be in place, and we will talk about that,” Erie said.

The recommendation from Essentia Health said:

“We are writing to you as physician leaders of the Essentia Health Departments of Pediatrics, Department of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, and the Hospitalists and Neonatologists of St. Mary’s Children’s Hospital to share our recommendations to prevent COVID-19 infections in the classroom this fall. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently came out with strong recommendations for both universal masking in the classroom as well as getting vaccinations for all those that are able.

“With the increased infectivity of the Delta variant and the inability to vaccinate children less than 12, we are increasingly concerned about the possibility of a massive outbreak, should universal masking not be adopted. This could quickly overwhelm our pediatric hospitals locally and may end up leading to the deaths of children in our community.”

There are valid concerns regarding the effect that masking has on student academic progress, particularly in the younger grades and in children with special needs. While these concerns are important to consider, we have data showing that virtual learning is likely a greater obstacle to academic achievement. Multiple studies estimate a several-month delay in academic progress related to virtual learning during the pandemic. A virtual environment also disproportionately impacts students with school-based therapy needs as well as those from lower socio-economic status households. For these reasons mitigation of viral transmission within the district, and thus a reduction in the probability of transition to a virtual environment is likely to optimize student achievement.”

“We recognize that this will now be the third academic year affected by COVID-19. We also recognize that learning occurs best in the classroom and would like to make this possible for all children. The pandemic has taken a massive toll on learning, mental health, and nutritional status. To prevent further losses in this regard, we urge you to adopt these recommendations and mandate masking for all students, staff, and visitors for children in K-12 schools in the hope of having in-person and safe learning environments for our children this year.”

Erie added that some other North Country school districts have issued mask mandates, including Cook County, while others, including ISD 2142 and Rock Ridge school districts, have not.

“We have worked very well in tandem with the hospital and Essentia in getting our community vaccinated and in trying to keep people healthy in both our school and the Ely community,” he said. “We rely on their expertise in this area.”

RELATED LINKS
Press release from Essentia Health that encourages universal masking in schools as the new year begins on Tuesday, Sept. 7:

https://www.essentiahealth.org/about/media-article-library/2021/essentia-encourages-universal-masking-in-schools/

Best Practice Recommendations for COVID-19 Prevention in Schools for the 2021-22 School Year from the Minnesota Department of Health:

https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/schools/schoolrecs.pdf.

American Academy of Pediatrics COVID-19 Guidance for Safe Schools:

https://www.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/clinical-guidance/covid-19-planning-considerations-return-to-in-person-education-in-schools/

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