Dear Northfield Public Schools Families:
Thank you for your support and cooperation during the pandemic. Since I last wrote to you on Tuesday, the public health situation has deteriorated in Rice County and Northfield. In my last update, I shared a planned transition to distance learning for all schools and explained that the timeline might need to be accelerated based on the public health situation. Unfortunately, the continued meteoric rise in COVID-19 infections has prompted us to move to distance learning earlier than expected for our Area Learning Center, early childhood, elementary and middle school students. Northfield High School’s timeline has not changed. Our goal remains to provide a safe and smooth transition for our families to distance learning:
|Area Learning Center||
|Northfield Community Education Center (Hand-in-Hand Pre-School and ECFE)||
(Bridgewater, Greenvale Park and Sibley Elementary)
|Northfield High School
|Northfield Middle School||
This acceleration was the consensus of our District’s incident command team based on this new information:
- When I last wrote to you, the preliminary Rice County infection rate per 10,000 residents for the 14-day period between October 25 and November 7 was 77.39. The actual number, posted on Thursday by Rice County Public Health, was 100.21. This data demonstrates uncontrolled community spread.
- Rice County Public Health has identified four significant outbreaks within the county at this time.
- We continue to struggle to effectively staff our schools due to employees needing to quarantine because of close contact outside of school with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
At this time, families should plan for distance learning to continue through at least Tuesday, December 22, 2020. Families should also be prepared that, based on the public health situation, distance learning could extend after winter break.
Portage students will continue with their regular schedules and are not affected by the transitions.
Tier I Childcare
The District will offer child care for Tier I essential workers during distance learning, beginning November 19. There will be a fee for any time before or after regular school hours. Care during school hours will be free. To qualify, both parents need to be considered Tier I essential workers and be scheduled to work during regular school hours. Please look for an updated registration timeline coming from Director of Community Education Erin Bailey very soon.
Director of Child Nutrition Stephany Stromme has provided an updated schedule about free meals.
Internet Access and Technology Support
Northfield Healthy Community Initiative is prepared to help families who need internet access or increased speed to support student academic needs during distance learning. Please go to https://northfieldpromise.org/connected for more information. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 507-291-5101 for assistance. We are committed to making sure 100% of families are connected.
Parents can use the District’s technology support website to get assistance with the technology transition. Staff are working to ensure that student technology is updated and ready for distance learning before leaving campus.
Activities, Facility Rentals, and Community Education Classes
The District is suspending all in-person school activities, facility rentals and community education classes beginning on Thursday, November 19. I know there has been concern (and in some cases, anger) about these decisions. We share the disappointment of our student-athletes because we know the vital role activities play in their lives. However, MDE Deputy Commissioner Heather Mueller provided clear guidance about athletics in an email to school superintendents on October 27:
“If your data indicates that substantial, uncontrolled community spread is occurring and/or there is a significant degree of impact on the school community, with multiple confirmed cases or large-scale outbreaks occurring among students and staff, then you must move to distance learning and discontinue activities and athletics for a minimum of two weeks.”
While the minimum suspension is two weeks, the suspension of activities, facility rentals and community education classes will inevitably be longer. We will continue to monitor data and work with our partners from the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and Rice County Public Health to determine when we can restart these critical aspects of our educational system.
We are not alone. Most of the Big Nine conference schools have announced a similar suspension of activities.
Continuing to Report COVID-19 Cases
We are working to establish the metrics that would govern our transition back into the hybrid learning model. One key component is having accurate information about the health of our student population. Please continue notifying your school if your student(s) test positive for COVID-19. We will eventually get the information from MDH, but their data is lagging due to the spike in cases.
I appreciate your ongoing understanding, support and grace in this brutal situation. We are all tired of COVID-19 but have to face that it will be with us for some time. We will work together to respond to the latest surge by taking these difficult but necessary steps.
Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools