Monday, Nov. 9 was a troubling day in Eastern Carver County Schools.
There were 620 students throughout the District at home in quarantine; 100 new. There were 90 staff quarantined, up from 39 over a five-day period.
Only 58% of needed substitute teachers and staff were filled. Forty-one specialized education staff were out. There were multiple bus drivers, janitorial staff and nutrition services workers out.
Tara Cliff, Health Services supervisor for Eastern Carver County Schools, is worried with a shortage of nurses that a school won't have someone in person for the first time in her tenure with the district.
With a 14-day case-rate per 10,000 people increasing from 16.33 to 25.59 in recent weeks, and with "increasing confidence" that the number will only increase, the District 112 school board, based on the recommendation of Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams, is making a learning model move shift.
Beginning Wednesday, Nov. 18, all kindergarten through 12th grade students in Eastern Carver County Schools will transition to full distance learning. There will be no school on Nov. 16 and 17 to allow staff to prepare for the move.
"We were in agreement that we were going to stay with what we were doing and then everything changed so rapidly," said Sayles-Adams of a Nov. 4 meeting.
"We already are experiencing the tipping point in Eastern Carver County," Scott said.
"We're walking on a tightrope, and that tightrope is made of dental floss," Sayles-Adams said.
Meeting twice over the last six days with a regional support team, which included Carver County Director of Public Health Richard Scott, the numbers and rates drastically changed.
"This is not a decision that was made lightly. Public health data shows a dramatic, exponential increase in positive cases at the state, county, and local levels," Sayles-Adams said in a release to families. "We are seeing the same numbers in our district data, with quarantines of students and staff placing additional stressors on our system. Staffing to fill these absences is not possible given the shortage of substitutes."
Scott said he's seeing "unprecedented activity" in the county. New cases are up 59% in Carver County. Roughly 13% of tests are receiving positive results.
"We had hoped we were done with COVID, but COVID isn't done with us," said Scott, referring to how Carver County was almost on its own island, the lowest positive rate among the seven metro-area counties. "The rate of transmission will get worse before it gets better."
Already this week, La Academia and Kinder Academy shifted to a distance learning model for an originally scheduled two-week quarantine. The La Academia building is closed and all child care and preschool will be canceled in that building until Dec. 1.
"It got to a point where there was a significant impact on staff, a significant impact on students. To stop the spread, we had to close the building," Erin Radtke, Assistant Superintendent for District 112.
Continued stressors on the systems have been increasing since the opening of school in September.
Radtke said principals have daily checklists and spend hours, sometimes days investigating contract tracing. One principal was teaching math on Nov. 9 with a substitute unavailable.
In total, absences of nine middle school teachers were not filled.
After weeks in which 113 of 127, and 112 of 125, needed substitutes were found, last week saw only 86 of 126 spots filled.
Radtke said other challenges have been unstable numbers in the Online Learning Academy and overall staffing. The use of a flip teaching model where a teacher is at home, while students watch in the classroom on a monitor still requires a licensed adult.
"Our case-rate allowed for hybrid for the first two months. We began noticing an uptick in the number. I can say, the last 72 hours have been very challenging for school district. It's a totally different narrative now," Sayles-Adams said.
The superintendent did say athletics and activities will continue to go on, unless a directive from the state of Minnesota comes through.
"We also want to be clear that this announcement doesn’t preclude the potential need to quarantine students, classrooms, or buildings the remainder of this week. We are re-evaluating our ability to staff and provide quality education to our students on a day-by-day, minute-by-minute basis," Sayles-Adams said.
Dr. Scott shared that Carver County is seeing 50-plus positive COVID cases per seven days — that number expected to exponentially growing in coming weeks. Roughly 2.28% of the county's residents have been diagnosed with the virus.
Dr. Scott also shared that the positivity rate across the state of Minnesota is increasing faster than the testing rate. New cases are up 104 in the state with 185,000 or so cases.
"We are seeing significant community spread," he said.
In other news:
Donta Hughes, one of five candidates to run in last week's school board election, shared his congratulations to Jeff Ross, Angela Erickson and Sean Olsen in the open forum portion. "It was a hard-fought election. It was a wonderful experience; something I am glad I did. You still have my help, you still have my fight," he said.
Carver County is proposing to install a pedestrian underpass at County Road 11 (Jonathan Carver Parkway), on the north side of Carver Elementary School. The County is s seeking two easements, one permanent and one temporary. Carver County contracted with an appraiser to determine the value for each easement. According to County representative, the County will rent the space that encumbers the temporary easement for a period of about two years. The appraiser arrived at the following figures for the two easements and replacement of trees.
- Permanent Easement: 18,627 sq. ft. $77,300
- Temporary Easement: 23,845 sq. ft. $15,900
- Trees: nine total $7,800
- Totals: $101,000