Northfield Public Schools nurses, service providers who are in close contact with students and personal care attendants will begin to receive COVID-19 vaccinations next week, shortly after K-2 students return to in-person instruction.

Superintendent Matt Hillmann announced the rollout during Monday’s School Board meeting. He said the district believes 37 employees qualify for the initial rollout.

Hillmann said the Minnesota Department of Health has said workers designated to receive vaccinations in phase 1a will be inoculated by the end of January, with remaining school staff being vaccinated beginning by next month. He and School Board Chair Julie Pritchard credited Northfield Hospital & Clinics and its work in allocating the vaccine to the district. NH+C received vaccine shipments last month.

“The light of the tunnel is getting here,” he said.

“The beginning of a vaccine is a really important step toward coming out of the pandemic.”

Still, Hillmann said Northfielders still share an obligation to continue to practice social distancing, mask-wearing and other preventative steps to slow the spread of COVID-19 until the pandemic concludes.

K-2 students to return Wednesday

Under the district’s plan, distance learning for K-2 students lasts until Wednesday, Jan. 13. After that, no school is scheduled the following two days so teachers can prepare for the return of the students. Students in third to fifth grades are scheduled to return to exclusively in-person learning Feb. 1. Students in those grades won’t have school from Jan. 27-29 so those teachers can prepare.

The district announced last month that preschoolers and K-2 students are slated to return to in-person learning Monday, Jan. 19, with older youth expected in a hybrid option by early February.

Northfield Public Schools had been operating in a distance learning format since late November after there were significant increases in virus numbers locally and throughout Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Education is requiring students to wear face masks while participating in physical education. Staff will have the chance to take a free COVID-19 test every two weeks.

The district’s decision came after Gov. Tim Walz prioritized the return of elementary children in submitting a similar plan for schools across the state. Any learning model changes, based in part on county COVID-19 infection numbers, no longer pertain to elementary schools.

Northfield Middle School, High School and Area Learning Center students are preliminary slated to continue distance learning from Jan. 4-28 before resuming hybrid learning Feb. 2. However, those plans also rest on the progression of the virus as measured by Rice County Public Health. The state recommends exclusive distance learning for school districts with infection rates above 50 per 10,000 residents. Rice County’s infection rate per 10,000 residents from Dec. 13 to 26 was 77.70.

For Northfield Community Education, facility rentals resumed Jan. 4 for local youth athletic associations who have existing safety plans on file. That return has been phased with smaller groups. In-person recreation programs also resumed Jan. 4. In-person enrichment programs are set to begin Feb. 1.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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