The Prior Lake-Savage Area School Board approved health and safety measures for the 2021-22 school year during a special meeting Aug. 25 after carefully reviewing the resolution at an Aug. 23 study session.
The board also voted to update masking protocols now requiring students up to grade 8 to wear face masks indoors, reversing course on the Back-to-School Safe Learning Plan safety protocols put in place earlier this month. Both items were passed on 6-0 votes, with board member Mary Frantz absent.
Superintendent Teri Staloch said for grades 9-12, indoor masking will continue to be recommended for all people in the high school setting including teachers, staff, students and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status.
During the special meeting, Board Chair Stacey Ruelle said the district has a process in place that has served the district over the last 18 months and they will continue to use it to recommend changes to ensure the safety and health of the almost 8,000 students the district serves everyday.
“The last two board meetings we have had a lot of discussion and struggles with this decision. I think the hope was that we would always have a normal start of fall 2021, and for all intents and purposes, this is the start of our focus in continuing to have five days a week of in-person learning and we want that to continue over the next year,” Ruelle said. “We’re excited to get our kids back five days a week, it’s been a long 18 months. We’d like to say it’s all over and we’re hopeful that it is, and this is a step to get us there.”
Board member Jonathan Drewes thanked the community for all their engagement and said he sees both sides of the spectrum.
“I believe that people on both sides were advocating for the best interest for their own family and from their own life experience and I respect that,” said Drewes. “At this table we’re tasked with a decision that’s not going to make everyone happy, but what I do think we’re united on is five days a week of in-person learning and I believe this approach gives us the best chance to deliver that to our students this year.”
During the meeting, Staloch clarified questions regarding mask funding that the district has received over the past month.
“There’s been emails requesting who is funding the mask mandate and weekly testing recommendations. The answer is, there is no funding that we receive regarding masking and testing,” said Staloch. “In terms of funding, the district does not receive funds due to a mask requirement. We have received federal funds that may be used to purchase masks but this is not a requirement to receive federal funding. We receive no funding regarding influenza-like illness cases. The MDE has grants available to districts to support COVID-19 testing. However, at this time, we are not pursuing testing in our schools.”
Scott County Public Health COVID-19 updateLisa Brodsky, Scott County Public Health Director, was on hand to deliver the latest COVID-19 updates at Monday’s meeting. She said there has been daily confirmed cases in Scott County.
As of the third week in August, there has been a total of 18,320 positive cases resulting in 134 deaths.
Brodsky also said Scott County has been in the high range in transmission of the Delta variant for the past week or so.
“Last year during the fall surge, children under 10 roughly represented about 5% of the cases and 10 to 19 was 12%. Just in the past two months it has doubled for those kids under 10 and we’re at about 9.6% and 10 to 19 is just a little bit higher at 13%,” said Brodsky. “A really important statistic since June 12, 2021, about 1.8% of the cases were about children under 10 and 1.5% of the cases of 10 to 19 were hospitalized. This has more than doubled of what we saw in November and December of last year. So, it does appear that with the higher viral load, kids are more affected than they were last year.”
Brodsky also said the county will continue to follow the health and safety guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health.
Moving forward, the PLSAS Incident Command Team will continue to meet with Scott County Public Health officials to monitor data, review protocols and make adjustments as needed.