Dear Northfield Public Schools Families,
I hope this message finds your family safe and healthy. I am grateful for our work together during the COVID-19 global health pandemic. The purpose of this message is to encourage vigilance against the novel coronavirus, provide you with information about how we notify families and staff about laboratory-positive COVID-19 test results, give you a heads up about an upcoming “pulse” survey for you to share your thoughts about the school year so far, an update about the start of football and volleyball seasons, and a reminder about a policy consideration.
Be vigilant — take precautions against COVID-19 and influenza!
We must be vigilant and continue the precautions the health officials tell us make a difference: wash your hands regularly with hot water and soap, maintain social distancing, wear a face-covering when in public, and stay home when you are ill. It will take our collective prevention efforts to keep students in school.
While infection rates have been steady in our county as of late, we have seen an increase in absenteeism in several buildings with students having influenza-like symptoms or staying home because a family member has influenza-like symptoms. As I have shared with you before, we need to be prepared to shift learning models. Make sure to have a plan should the District need to quickly modify its schedule. While the case rate per 10,000 residents is a vital data point, other data points — like high absenteeism due to influenza-like symptoms — could also force us to shift learning models at an individual school or district level.
Notifying families and staff about laboratory-positive cases
Northfield Public Schools has numerous protocols in place to limit the spread of the virus. However, COVID-19 is a contagious virus and very few organizations will avoid having laboratory-positive cases emerge.
Our goal is to share as much information with those who need to know while also protecting the privacy of those who have contracted the novel coronavirus. While it is natural to want to know more, we must refrain from speculation and spreading rumors. Today, we are launching a dashboard that shares the current situation at each school building. We will report the currently active cases and the cumulative cases at each building. In order to protect the anonymity of our students and staff, we will report in the following way:
- “0” if there are no cases at a building
- “<5” if there are between 1-4 cases at a building
- The actual number of cases will be used if the number of cases is five or greater.
This approach is in alignment with the weekly reporting procedures released by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
We will always individually notify those who are considered “close contacts” of an infected individual. At this point, we will share the MDH general notification letter with the families at the building where there has been a new laboratory-confirmed positive case.
» You can learn more about the steps we take when we receive confirmation of a laboratory-positive COVID-19 case here.
Again, we aim for transparency and balance that against the need for empathy with those who have contracted COVID-19.
Free COVID-19 testing in Northfield this week
MDH is providing free COVID-19 tests this week in Northfield in the Emmaus Church parking lot. You can learn more here.
Heads-up: survey later this week
In our effort to gather your feedback, we will conduct a “pulse” survey later this week to hear how you are feeling about the school year. The survey will be open October 9-16.
As mentioned previously, the School Board recently heard two proposed policies to govern how school buildings are named. The proposed policy would prohibit the District from naming school buildings after individuals or families, historical or contemporary. The policy also directs the District to rename existing facilities that do not meet the new criteria within one year from the time the policy is approved. This change would impact two school buildings in the District: Longfellow School and Sibley Elementary. The “why” behind this policy proposal is to ensure a consistent naming practice within the school district and to avoid issues that can detract from our vision to support every student. The second policy would govern sponsorship of other District property. The Board will be asked to vote on both policy additions at its meeting on Monday, October 12. As always, you can find School Board meeting materials here.
The Raider football and volleyball seasons have been reinstated by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) to play a shortened 2020 schedule. The MSHSL and MDH have limited football games to 250 spectators. Tickets will be pre-sold to football player families only. There will be no walk-up ticket sales.
Since volleyball is an indoor sport, no spectators will be allowed to attend the matches. All football and volleyball competitions will be live-streamed on the NFHS Network. Click here to purchase a streaming pass. We thank you in advance for your cooperation by not coming to the events. This request is counter to what we usually encourage, but these directives will allow us to host a safe and manageable event for our student-athletes. Please contact Activities Director Joel Olson with any questions about the reinstated athletic seasons.
Once again, thank you for your collaboration as we all work together in response to the COVID-19 global health emergency. I am proud of our community’s collective work to care for our friends, neighbors, and students.
Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools