Mask up

Eastern Carver County Schools announced Aug. 26 that masks will be required for children ages 2 to 12 beginning the first day of school, Sept. 7, through at least Oct. 1.

Three weeks after announcing masks would be recommended, but not required for students and staff at the start of the school year, Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams announced Aug. 26 some masks would now be required.

With COVID cases continuing to rise in Carver County, masks will be required for ECCS students ages 2-12 inside Eastern Carver County Schools buildings, including children in Early Childhood and Family Education through sixth grade.

"I have spoken at length about our core values of health, safety, and a quality education. That is the foundation of our Safe Learning Plan. My commitment has been to use our local data to inform any changes we have to our mitigation strategies. Our local data has moved into the substantial category and stayed in that range for several days. That tells us that in order to preserve in-person learning while keeping our students and staff safe, our youngest learners need to be wearing masks," stated Sayles-Adams, in a district release to parents.

The district continues to strongly recommend that all students regardless of vaccination status, wear masks.

At the Aug. 16 school board meeting, district leaders shared the district-wide masking recommendation. Many parents in attendance still took the time to voice their concerns over the potential of future policy change.

Sayles-Adams acknowledged the divide the topic has created in the community.

"I know the issue of masks is dividing our community. What unites us is our love for and dedication to our children. What we all want is for our children to be together, in-person, learning and growing this school year. By working in partnership, doing what we can to keep ourselves and our families safe, I know we can make that happen. Together, we will make this an incredible year for our school community," Sayles-Adams said.

The mask requirement for students in sixth grade and younger begins on the first day of school, Sept. 7, and will be required through at least Oct. 1. The district will update families on whether an extension is needed.

As of Aug. 26, the current 14-day case rate (cases per 10,000) is 34.43, up from 16.1 on Aug. 16.

The case rate has risen from low to substantial, moving past moderate. If the number would climb past 50, masking would be required for all persons inside school buildings.

More information on District 112's safe learning plan can be found on the district website.

Carver County is experiencing its highest level of new COVID cases since late April, but nowhere near the largest spike in November (140-plus new cases daily) and an intermediate spike in April after spring break (70).

Eastern Carver County is not the only metro-area school districts to require masks.

Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools have also announced similar masking policies for its students.