Greetings, Northfield Public Schools Families,
We are less than one month away from the start of the 2021-22 school year, which begins for students on Sept. 9. We are excited to welcome your children back!
Family Conferences [reminder]
We are beginning the school year with family conferences on Sept. 7 and 8. These conferences are an opportunity for families to connect with teachers and discuss the upcoming school year. Individual schools are working to schedule conferences with their families.
COVID-19 Safety Protocols [reminder]
As shared on Aug. 6, the district has adopted a more limited set of COVID-19 safety protocols to start the 2021-22 school year. You can read more about the protocols here. Please know they are subject to change without advance notice because the pandemic is once again changing rapidly. Thankfully, we are in a much better place now compared to the uncertainty that accompanied the start of last school year.
We encourage families to strongly consider vaccination for their eligible children. The State of Minnesota’s $100 vaccine reward initiative has been extended through Aug. 22. More information can be found at mn.gov/covid19/100. The COVID-19 vaccines are available from a variety of providers, including many right here in Northfield. Please use this resource to secure a vaccination appointment for your eligible child. At this point, it appears that approximately 54% of eligible students aged 12-to-17 have been vaccinated.
As previously shared, the district will begin the year by requiring face masks to be worn inside school buildings. There have been some updates for students participating in high school athletics based on the guidance provided by the Minnesota State High School League. You can see more information here.
The district understands that our decision to require universal masking has pleased many families while upsetting, even angering others. In this case, the “why” is essential.
Our primary objective is to ensure uninterrupted in-person learning. Last year, students considered “close contacts” to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 had to quarantine for ten days. New guidelines do not require “close contacts” to quarantine if vaccinated or if both parties were wearing a mask. This means that students should have more consistency in their school experience.
The district will review our universal masking requirement regularly. We will consider local infection trends, vaccination rates, and overall influenza-like illness data in determining when the face mask requirement can be removed. The requirement will likely remain in place longer for students who are not yet eligible for vaccination.
Our decision was based on expert advice from numerous public health agencies, consultation with a professional epidemiologist, and input from dozens of local medical doctors, health professionals, and the support of Northfield Hospital+Clinics.
Finally, I recognize that many neighboring districts have made different decisions. Without statewide directives, school districts have local control to determine the best strategy for their community. We respect the independent decisions of other districts.
The district does offer a state-approved all-the-time online program called Portage. You can learn more about Portage here.
Once again, I thank you for your partnership and grace. I understand the ongoing disruptions and detours caused by the pandemic are maddening. We all want this to be over. While we have made significant progress, it is not over. The district will continue to make the best decisions it can with the available information, prioritizing in-person learning and the health and safety of our community.
As always, please reach out to me directly with any questions or feedback.
Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools