PLSAS District Services Center

The Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools District Services Center, 4540Tower St. SE in Prior Lake.

The Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board discussed it’s latest Back-to-School Safe Learning Plan at it’s first meeting of the new year on Monday, Jan. 10.

On Monday, PLSAS sent out a letter to staff and families informing them that the district will shift to distance learning upon the recommendation of the Minnesota Department of Health as well as Scott County Public Health beginning Thursday, Jan. 13.

Athletics, activities and events will continue as scheduled.

During the meeting, Superintendent Teri Staloch updated the school board and community members about a school schedule change recently put in place due to over 600 students in the PLSAS district testing positive or have been quarantined for COVID-19 between Jan. 3-10, as students and staff returned to classrooms from winter break.

“Our COVID-19 team meets weekly. The last question I always ask at the meeting is if there’s any recommended changes to our safe learning plan and it’s been great that throughout the year thus far, there has been very few changes,” said Staloch. “However, as we look into the outcomes this evening, you will note that we do have a change that a couple hours ago, the Incident Command Team did approve that we’re bringing forward this evening regarding our learning model — we do have to move from our in-person learning to distance learning.”

The announcement was met with a negative reaction from community members in the audience, who earlier in the meeting, urged school board members to lift the mask mandate during the open forum portion of the meeting.

Staloch briefed the board about staffing challenges that have presented challenges when it comes to keeping school buildings open.

“I think we’ve communicated these last couple of weeks about the difficulty in staffing challenges we’ve had,” said Staloch. “Today, we’re at a point that we simply cannot continue to safely operate our schools. I know this is not what anybody in this room or district wants.”

Kate Keil, health services coordinator, told the board that in the last six days there had been over 200 reported positive COVID-19 cases from staff and students in the district.

“I want to bring your attention to Prior Lake High School. PLHS is between 4% and 5% — though that doesn’t sound like many, that is nearly 140 students,” said Keil.

Teacher shortage crisis Jim Quiram, director of human resources, also presented to the board regarding COVID-19 healthcare guidelines in the workplace and staffing shortages.

“Related to staffing, there are things that have changed since we’ve been back in January,” said Quiram. “We have always been at 10% or less in staffing being gone. We are around 12% right now and I think it might be higher than that because not all absences have been accounted for, but today we are right around 12% of all staff out. In addition to that, we also have significant, critical staffing shortages in some areas, especially in support staff. Right now we have 53 open positions open.”

According to Quiram, the substitute and para teacher rate is at 32%, down from 70% throughout the pandemic.

“Our substitute fill rate was at 70% throughout the pandemic and in December our fill rate was 50% — after we came back it was in the 40s and now we’re in the 30s,” said Quiram.

Quiram said under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency temporary standard, PLSAS has selected to require masking and weekly testing for unvaccinated/undisclosed employees. He said the second deadline for weekly testing begins in February.

When it comes to voluntary COVID-19 testing, PLSAS began offering Zoom-enabled voluntary testing for the community in November. Rapid tests are now available for families.

Under the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and MDH, staff have moved to a 5-day quarantine period if they are without symptoms following a household exposure (unvaccinated) or test positive.

For more information on the latest Back-to-School Safe Learning Plan visit https://www.priorlake-savage.k12.mn.us/about-us/back-to-school-safe-learning-plan

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