As I looked at the Cass County data for the past few months, it was reminiscent of a roller coaster.
The graphs illustrated rolling ups and downs with sudden spikes and drops, so this column is entitled “COVID coaster." I want to make sure no one associates the “COVID coaster” with fun you can have on a roller coaster at an amusement park. Over the past 10 months, COVID-19 has drastically impacted too many lives.
I fear we may experience another round on the coaster as we begin to open our schools back up. When we opened school in September we saw a slow start with the spread of the virus in our region, but shortly after Halloween we experienced a very sharp increase in cases.
As the Thanksgiving holiday approached, a concern about another spike was predicted, but never really appeared. Since then our trend has slowly gone back down to early October levels. When our case data is graphed out it begins to look like the coaster ride is coming to an end. This has us asking the question: How do we best prepare ourselves moving forward?
Before students and school staff were released for the holiday break, Gov. Walz announced Executive Order 20-103 and extended and modified his emergency powers with Executive Order 20-99. These orders along with some clarifications have made it possible for schools to have winter sports and for districts to have the option to begin rolling back students to in-person learning three grade levels at a time.
It can be considered a huge celebration that the Pine River-Backus School District has been able to maintain in-person learning for the elementary students. We will now be focusing on our seventh and eighth grade students. Our hope and current planning is to be able to begin the second semester with students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade with in-person learning.
Since COVID-19 has not gone away yet, we will need to continue our social distancing and wearing face masks. We will need to be more watchful and vigilant in these efforts as we bring more people together in school, sports and restaurants. Testing measures for COVID-19 will need to continue so early identification can help reduce the spread of this virus. Quarantining will also if positive cases are identified or close exposure occurs with a positive case.
These precautions will hopefully maintain our preK-8 in-person learning model and allow us to begin planning to bring back our ninth through twelfth grade students very soon. Our goal is to make the “Tiger Family” whole once again by having all of our students with us.
You can help by making sure your children are following all of the bus, school and sports COVID-19 procedures. Also, have backup plans pre-planned for when quarantine is required because of a positive test or exposure.
We are going to do all we can. Please do all you can to prevent another rise of the COVID coaster.
Jonathan Clark is the Pine River-Backus School District superintendent.