Following a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in Hennepin County, Edina Public Schools announced a switch to distance learning for the foreseeable future. This comes after 34.25 cases per 10,000 were tracked by the Minnesota Department of Health; secondary schools must close if cases per 10,000 exceed 30.
On November 10, the Edina School Board held an emergency meeting to discuss the findings of these new numbers. At the meeting, district administrators revealed that the Nov. 10 total quarantines for EPS exceeded 200 and positive cases increased by 9 that day.
In addition to a sudden escalation in COVID cases, school faculty members cited difficulties within their staffing abilities. Highlands Elementary School faced these realities firsthand as the elementary school numbers continued to climb. “At Highlands, we’re a case or two away from having to close the entire school,” Highlands Elementary Principal Kathryn Mahoney said.
The initial hybrid model heavily relied upon full staffing and consistently low numbers among district staff; each principal from the 5 schools represented at the board meeting expressed their concerns with heightening quarantines among staff members. “These [protective systems] we have built to keep our students safe are starting to unpeel. They’re getting to the point where we can’t guarantee a safe learning environment for our students,” Board Member Erica Allenburg said.
Upon further discussion, the Edina School Board decided to approve the fully virtual model presented by Edina High School and both district middle schools. Though the elementary schools were a contentious topic, a later decision stated that each elementary school should be included in the virtual transition.
Governor Tim Walz followed suit, postponing all high school sports and activities for at least four weeks. Edina Public Schools announced their intention to abide by these new restrictions, tweeting that “knowing our own community’s growing COVID rate, we believe that enacting the Gov[ernor’s] ‘pause’ on athletics and activities immediately is the right thing to do.”