The Medford School Board spent Monday night discussing learning model updates, COVID-19 cases within the district and how the district plans to proceed with school athletics as COVID-19 cases are increasing in Steele County and the state.
Students didn’t have school on Monday as teachers and staff prepped for distance learning in the coming weeks. As previously announced, students will remain in their current learning model through the rest of this week. Superintendent Mark Ristau said the district will ensure students are sent home with the materials and devices needed for distance learning.
“Our goal is still to make it to Friday, our in-house numbers are OK right now and the county was fine with that moving forward,” Ristau said.
Distance learning for Medford students begins Monday, Nov. 23 through Friday, Dec. 4 with a break for Thanksgiving Nov. 26-27. Ristau said he hopes to bring students back to their current learning model on Monday, Dec. 7, depending on case data.
The school board also agreed to push the beginning of winter sports back to Dec. 7. The remaining fall sports, football and volleyball, will continue as long as it is safe to do so. The move comes as a way to provide closure to an existing season while putting a pause on starting a new season.
“That may be wishful thinking,” Ristau said, adding that an pushing back the start of winter activities might be necessary. Fall extracurricular activities will also continue contingent on safety, according to Ristau, and they have plans to halt extracurriculars in the winter if necessary.
However, Gov. Tim Walz is set to announce new COVID-19 restrictions, including new guidelines for youth sports on Wednesday night. In a previous press conference, Gov. Walz said he would announce a pause in school activities including sports, according to MinnPost. The governor pointed to an increase in the number of COVID-19 case outbreaks related to sports.
Several Medford staff have just completed quarantining and another staff member is quarantining awaiting test results. Depending on those results, more students and staff may have to switch to distance learning earlier than planned. Most recently, Steele County reported 42 new COVID-19 cases within the past 48 hours. Last Thursday the county’s case rate per 10,000 was at 41.99. With trends going in the wrong direction and Ristau says the next rate could be in the 60s and could jump up even more the following week.
“Our new positives have more than doubled from last week and we have quadrupled over the last two weeks for our cases,” Steele County Public Health Director Amy Caron said in her Monday update on Facebook.
The next Medford School Board meeting is set for Dec. 21 at 6 p.m.