Diamondhead Education Center (copy)

The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District administrative offices at 200 Burnsville Parkway. 

Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school leaders voiced their worries and exhaustion this week following a new report on surging COVID-19 cases, a district labor shortage and nationwide supply chain disruptions that threaten access to school lunch food. 

"I must tell you, I am exhausted from COVID," Burnsville-Eagan-Savage District Superintendent Theresa Battle told the school board Thursday. "A few days ago, my staff, they just had to lift me up and say, 'we have to continue.'"

The district, which spans portions of Dakota and Scott counties, is working to keep schools open while Minnesota's COVID-19 infection rate, the worst in the nation, continues to rise. 

Minnesota health officials say pediatric cases, particularly in children ages 5-11, are at an all-time high and temporary closures are in effect this month at schools in Prior Lake and Shakopee. 

The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage district is working to keep schools open with stringent health and safety practices, but district operations are under strain due to major staffing shortages across departments. 

On Friday, the district had 108 jobs openings listed. 

Staffing shortages and supply chain disruptions at Midwest food distributors are also having an impact on districts in Minnesota. 

Earlier this month, 57 districts in northwestern Minnesota lost their primary food distributor when their contracts were terminated without warning. 

Lisa Rider, the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage district's executive director of business services, said they're hopeful the district's primary food provider, Upper Lakes Foods, in Cloquet, will be able to continue its partnership with the district. 

However, Rider said the district is facing incomplete and delayed orders at times.

Still, district officials say it could be much worse.

According to Battle, some districts have been looking to retailers such as Costco and Sam's Club to source food for student meals.  

During Thursday's meeting, School Board Member Abigail Alt said the situation almost leaves her speechless. 

"We want to do what's right for our students and our families and it's getting hard," she said, adding school closures don't necessarily protect students from COVID-19. 

"There's so many variables," she lamented.