Greetings, Northfield Public Schools Families:
I hope this message finds you healthy and safe. I continue to be grateful for our ongoing partnership in responding to the COVID-19 global health crisis.
State of Minnesota Restriction Changes
Last week, Governor Walz announced a series of changes that will reduce COVID-19 restrictions over the next two months. Here is what we know (so far) about how those changes will impact schools:
- The outdoor mask mandate expired on May 7. Therefore, masks are no longer required for students, staff, or spectators at outdoor events. The one exception relates to outdoor events of more than 500 people with controlled entry. The district may have events that meet this requirement and will announce that restriction accordingly. Masks are still required inside all Northfield School District facilities.
- The requirements of the Safe Learning Plan are in place until the end of the school year.
- We continue to review changes in state requirements and will adjust our district practices as needed.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recommends that all school-age youth and their families, with or without symptoms, get tested for COVID-19 every two weeks through the end of the school year. There are many COVID-19 testing options available. The state has partnered with Vault Health and schools to provide free testing kits to middle school and high school students. Testing is entirely optional.
Students who would like to test may pick up their free kit from the middle school, high school, or ALC offices on Tuesdays (May 11, May 25, June 8). You will complete the test at home between the hours of 7:00 am–7:00 pm.
When you are ready to take the test, you will log in to access the Vault virtual waiting room for a video visit (using Zoom) with a Vault test supervisor. The test supervisor will give you instructions and make sure you complete the test correctly.
Your student should bring the completed test to the middle school, high school, or ALC office no later than 11:00 am the next day (May 12, May 26, June 9). The office staff will send your completed test to a Vault lab and your student will get your test results by email within 24-48 hours.
Should your student need to access a test at another time, the district has purchased some Vault tests that can be used whenever needed. Again, contact your school office to access those tests.
Vaccination is the most effective tool we have against COVID-19. In addition to the effectiveness of the vaccine guarding against infection, a vaccinated person no longer needs to quarantine after 14 days following their final dose, if they are a close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, if the following are true:
- exposure occurred after the 14th day and
- the individual does not have any symptoms
There are several options for vaccinations for students 16 and older:
- Northfield Hospital+Clinics: You can register for a vaccination appointment by calling 507-646-8019 on weekdays from 8:00 am-4:30 pm. Translators are available.
- The Cub Foods pharmacy in Northfield also has access to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. You can make an appointment at Cub Foods by calling 855-282-3663.
- Rice County Public Health has a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination clinic on Tuesday, May 11, from 3:30 pm-6:00 pm at Faribault High School. Students attending this event must have a parent pre-register here.
- You can also sign up for the State of Minnesota Vaccine Connector and can also use the Vaccine Spotter website to secure appointments at pharmacies throughout the state.
- Some systems may ask you for identification and/or insurance, but they are not required, and no one will be turned away. There is no cost for the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Again, vaccination is a personal choice. The district wants to make sure families have the resources to access vaccination if desired.
You may have heard about potential funding for summer school or national reports highlighting the importance of summer programs. Our district has offered robust summer programming for students and plans to provide a similar program this year.
- Credit recovery: this program assists high school-age students who did not pass one or more classes. Students learn about and access this program through their school counselor and/or the Area Learning Center director.
- Summer PLUS and BLAST: These programs are for qualifying students in completing Kindergarten-8th grade. The program includes a blend of academic preparation with enrichment experiences. Students who are eligible for this program were contacted directly by their school to consider registering.
- Extended School Year: A specialized program for students receiving special education services through an individualized education program (IEP) and who qualify for this service as determined by their IEP team.
- Our community education program offers many opportunities for youth each summer. You can review the latest brochure here. While many programs have fees, scholarships are available.
As we (hopefully) come closer to the end of the pandemic, our district understands that recovering from it will take longer than one summer or school year. We plan to accelerate student learning as part of the regular school day during the 2021-22 school year. We are currently focusing on using federal funds to support smaller class sizes at our elementary schools and providing greater access to counselors and mental health professionals at the middle and high schools. I will explain more about these approaches in a future communication.
Once again, thank you for your ongoing partnership as we navigate this historic pandemic. It hasn’t been easy for anyone and I value our community’s willingness to work together to support each other. While there are still difficulties on the road ahead, there is reason to be optimistic about the future. Let’s continue to treat our friends and neighbors with respect and understanding as we move forward together.
Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.