Dear Northfield School District Families:
Welcome back and Happy New Year! I hope you were able to enjoy the winter break. As we head into the new year there are a few updates I would like share:
COVID-19 and Testing Update
As anticipated, we experienced a substantial increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases when students and staff returned after winter break. Both the Middle School and Spring Creek Elementary have averaged influenza-like illness (ILI) rates above five percent this week. The five percent ILI average threshold has long been a point of concern for the Minnesota Department of Health, even prior to the COVID-19 global health pandemic. While concerning, we know the vast majority of the students absent because of influenza-like illness symptoms this week have not yet returned to school after winter break. We have consulted with Rice County Public Health about the issue and they are comfortable with the situation at this time with our current protocols in place. We will continue to monitor these rates at all of our schools.
Every enrolled district student over the age of two and every staff member is eligible to receive a BD Veritor test kit. There are two tests in each kit. If you have not already picked up your test kit, you may do so at the district office from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. All students under the age of 18 must have a parent pick up the test on their behalf. Thanks to all of the families who used these tests over winter break — we distributed over 1,800 kits and know this helped our families who needed access to COVID-19 testing.
If you are a district employee or student, and you are symptomatic, you can schedule an appointment for Cue COVID-19 testing at the district office testing center. You can learn more and make an appointment here.
The district has ordered 25,000 adult and 12,000 youth-size KN95 masks. We anticipate delivery next week and these masks will be available at school for students and staff who would like an upgraded mask. While the masks are disposable, it is possible for them to be used for more than one day at a time if they can be kept clean. We will let families know once these masks are delivered. Again, these will be provided as an option for staff and families.
Test to Stay
Next week we will implement our “test to stay” program. This voluntary program will allow students who would have been required to quarantine because they were identified as close contacts at school to remain in school by testing negative for COVID-19 twice during what would have been their quarantine period. The definition of a close contact at school is being unmasked and within six feet of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for 15 minutes or more. We now have the tests on site to start this program and are finalizing program details. Information about the “test to stay” rollout will be shared with families next week.
Start Time for School Board Meetings
At the December 13 school board meeting, the board approved a new board meeting start time of 6:00 p.m. instead of 7:00 p.m. beginning in January 2022. The January 10, 2022 organizational meeting will begin at 6:00 p.m. and the regular board meeting will immediately follow.
Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) Training for Elementary Staff
The district has at least 16 teachers who have been accepted for training in the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) program. The cost of the training is funded through the Minnesota Department of Education via state legislation. The robust program includes over 140 hours of training in the next year. This training, along with our adoption of the high-quality Center for Collaborative Classroom literacy curriculum, continues to build our staff’s capacity to use the latest “science of reading” strategies. This training aligns with our strategic plan’s commitment for learner outcomes and the benchmark for students reading at grade level.
Once again, thank you for your collaboration and support as we continue working together for our students and their future. We value your trust and partnership.
Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools