The Shakopee School District reports there have been 30 confirmed covid-19 cases among students, teachers and staff since school buildings opened one month ago.
More than 6,100 students, or about 77% of the student body, are enrolled in the IHD program (in-person, hybrid, distance), with the remaining 23% of students opting to do online distance learning for the school year.
All nine schools have been in hybrid mode, with IHD students alternating in-person and distance learning days. Kindergartners, who attend in-person class every day, are the exception.
Of the 30 total cases, five are teachers and 25 are students. The first week of school saw the most cases of any week so far, with nine confirmed student cases.
According to Communications Specialist Crystal McNally, some of the people infected are not in school during their infectious period, so some of the cases had no in-school exposure to others.
Shakopee Schools Superintendent Mike Redmond said district leaders didn’t enter the school year with projections or expectations of how much covid-19 might spread on school campuses, but they are monitoring the situation closely.
Though in-person learning is ideal, the district doesn’t plan to fully make that shift until covid-19 case counts have stabilized.
“At the heart of the determination for such changes is the number of covid-19 cases per 10,000 residents of Scott County,” Redmond said, referring to Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) guidance. “In addition, we are monitoring our systems of operations — things such as staffing, student attendance, state of physical spaces, food service, and transportation — and their potential impacts on our ability to provide services. We also use a number of other sources of data and statistics on such things as daily case rates in Scott County, weekly case rates in Scott County, positive test rates in Scott County and Minnesota, and number of cases in our district.”
The MDE’s guidance lags by two weeks but spells out the thresholds for different learning models. The document recommends learning models based on the number of countywide cases per 10,000 people over two weeks.
The most recent two-week data set available is from Sept. 13-26, in which Scott County averaged 24.83 cases per 10,000 residents, up from 19.25 in the two weeks prior. MDE recommends hybrid learning for schools in counties with 20-30 cases per 10,000 residents.
Since MDE began using this guidance on August 2, Scott County has seen as few as 15.14 cases per 10,000 residents to the current high of 24.83.
Redmond said district administrators and the Pandemic Response Advisory Team, which meets weekly, would prefer any change in learning model take place during a natural break in school to ease the transition.
“We will be very deliberate when considering making a shift to a less restrictive learning environment, and such a change is likely to occur at a natural break in our school year calendar,” he said. “Prior to making a change to this form of less restrictive learning model, we must have a high degree of confidence the shift will not cause a significant increase in the transmission of covid-19 within our schools.”
Before making any in-person considerations, cases need to stabilize so the district doesn’t risk needing to step back into hybrid, or even full-time distance, learning. Changes to the learning model require significant adjustments to the way teachers and staff provide services, so administrators are trying to avoid a “back and forth” between the learning models.
If case counts drastically increase, the district would take swift action to move to a more restrictive learning model, Redmond said, though he looks forward to a time when restrictions won’t be necessary anymore.
“I don’t even think I can put into words how happy I will be when the day comes where we can have all of our students return to in-person every day,” he said. “But we need to balance that desire for the return to full in-person learning with being conscious of the very real health concerns posed by the covid-19 pandemic.”