The Mahtomedi School Board called an emergency meeting Nov. 2 to respond to increasing COVID-19 case numbers in Washington County.

By a vote of 4-1 (board member Stacy Stout opposed), the board approved recommendations to switch to distance learning for Mahtomedi High School students beginning Nov. 10 and remaining in that model for the foreseeable future. 

“I agree that we must look at data, but our ultimate goal is to be educators,” Stout said. “I’m worried about loss of learning and about mental health. I also really worry about going full distance learning indefinitely. “

Countered board member Julie McGraw, “I fear that if we don’t make a decision based on public health and science numbers that we could harm the future or current health of our children, students and staff.”

According to state health guidelines, school districts throughout the state use the number of positive cases per 10,000 residents in their counties over a two-week period to inform their decisions about the learning model for the various grade levels within the school district.

Washington County, in which the Mahtomedi School District is located, registered 23.84 cases per 10,000 population during the the week beginning Sept. 20, and 28.02 cases per 10,000 during the week beginning Sept. 27. During the two-week period of Oct. 4-17, however, Washington County reported 36.08 cases per 10,000 (not including figures from the COVID-19 outbreak in the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Oak Park Heights).

The threshold for reverting to distance learning for secondary level students and hybrid learning for elementary students is 30 cases per 10,000.

As a result, the Minnesota Regional Support Team recommended distance learning for Mahtomedi High School students — but not the middle school — beginning Nov. 10.

Mahtomedi Middle School, Wildwood Elementary and O. H. Anderson Elementary will continue to use the hybrid learning model.

Activities and clubs will continue. Director of Student Activities Aaron Forsythe said that sports practices and training would be conducted in pods of 25 students. Activities are optional for students and families, he said.

The district will reexamine data with the regional support team during the week of Nov. 16.

District officials will continue to monitor case trends and begin planning to transition back to hybrid learning if COVID-19 case numbers start to trend significantly downward, Superintendent Barb Duffrin said. “I look at three weeks as a significant trend,” she said.

“Our goal is to be face to face as much as we can, as soon as we can,” Board Chair Lucy Payne said.

The board next meets at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, in the District Center Community Room, 1520 Mahtomedi Ave.

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