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March 13 Superintendent's Update on COVID-19
March 13, 2020 Borg Report
Let me start by saying how much I appreciate everyone’s patience and cooperation as we navigate this unprecedented situation. Time and time again, our school community has shown that we can pull together to do the very best we can for kids. The situation with COVID-19 is no exception.
My guiding post in leading our district’s direction has three tenets:
- Prioritize the safety of our students and staff. My background is in education, and I will continue to rely on public health experts to keep our learning/working environments safe and healthy.
- Provide the very best education and support we can for students with the resources available.
- Apply humanity and show empathy in all decisions as we continue this work.
Westonka Public Schools has been in regular communication with the Minnesota Department of Health and Minnesota Department of Education about the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation. Our priority remains to keep our students, staff and community healthy and our learning/working environments as safe as possible.
As of today, Friday, March 13, state health officials do not recommend broad school closures. However, MDH and MDE are recommending that schools move into the mitigation phase of response to this pandemic to minimize the spread of the disease. We support this direction and will continue to take the actions necessary to protect the most vulnerable populations in the community.
MDH is recommending that schools reduce the frequency of large gatherings, and limit the number of attendees per gathering. They also recommend implementing some social distancing practices in school environments, which means limiting the time large groups of students/staff are congregated. We also want to limit visitors into our buildings so that our custodial staff can focus on keeping our buildings clean and healthy.
UPDATED EVENT PROTOCOLS AS OF MARCH 13, 2020
Based on the most recent guidance from MDH and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Westonka Public Schools is putting the following protocols in place, effective immediately:
- As long as schools remain open, Westonka Adventure Club, youth enrichment activities and all other before- and after-school programs for students will remain open.
- All evening and weekend school-sponsored events (concerts, event fundraisers, etc.) in all district schools are canceled through April 12.
- All field trips and other off-campus learning experiences are canceled through April 12.
- All in-school assemblies and large gatherings are canceled through April 12.
- All Community Education evening and weekend classes, activities and facility rentals in all district schools are canceled through April 12. The Westonka Activity Center, including Community Ed. classes run through that building, will continue to operate normally.
- White Hawks activities: Game/meet cancellations are determined by the Minnesota State High School League. Please see the MSHSL for the most up-to-date information. High school and middle school practices will continue until further notice.
To reduce the impact of this virus on students, families and staff, we are continuing to recommend that people who feel unwell stay home in order to protect those who are most vulnerable. Everyone should wash their hands often and continue to cover coughs/sneezes.
SCHOOL CLOSURE DECISIONS
It’s important to note that no one in our school community (staff or students) has a confirmed case of COVID-19 at this time. If a student or staff member does test positive for COVID-19, district officials will be contacted by MDH, and we will work with state health officials to determine if we should make any modifications to our normal school operations.
In the event of a positive case(s) in the school community, MDH may recommend a shorter-term school closure (a few days) for cleaning and/or contact tracing. However, MDH has indicated that a positive case would not automatically prompt a school closure. At Westonka, we are experts in teaching and learning, and we will continue to rely on public health experts to keep our students, staff and community safe and healthy.
MDH has given several reasons as to why they are not recommending broad school closures at this time, including:
- People under the age of 19 are at the lowest risk of contracting the disease
- Handwashing and staying home when sick have proven to be more effective ways of stopping the spread of the virus than school closures
- School closures have unintended consequences, including negative impacts on the continuity of education, student nutrition and support services, the workplace/economy, health care and more
- In other states and countries, those places that closed school have not had more success in reducing spread than those that did not
While it is our goal to keep school open, we are actively preparing for an outbreak of illness and its potential impacts. Our staff is working diligently to adapt our current K-12 eLearning Plan, which was designed for weather-related closures, to accommodate a multi-day closure.
We highly recommend that families make contingency plans in the event state health officials direct Westonka to close school. Having “short-term” and “longer-term” plans is advisable.
WHERE TO FIND UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION
Please rely on updates posted to the Minnesota Department of Health website or the CDC website for the most accurate and timely information on the virus. You can also call the MDH COVID-19 Hotline at (651) 201-3920.
Additionally, we have created a page on the district website to house school updates related to COVID-19, including preventative measures and information for travelers: https://www.westonka.k12.mn.us/covid19
We are continuing to monitor the situation closely in consultation with MDH and will provide regular updates to staff and families as new information becomes available.
We know this is a challenging time for everyone and appreciate your continued patience and support.