Dear Northfield School District Families,
Once again, thank you for your partnership. Today, I am writing to update you on the district’s COVID-19 protocol changes I outlined in 2021-22 District Family Update No. 18.
On Monday night, the Board of Education unanimously approved these significant changes in our COVID-19 safety protocols that will become effective on Monday, Feb. 21, 2022.
The most significant change is shifting from requiring face masks inside Northfield School District facilities to face masks being recommended but optional inside Northfield School District facilities. There are two exceptions to this change in face mask procedures:
- The Northfield Community Education Center will continue to require face masks to be worn inside that building.
- The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) requires everyone 2 and older to wear a face mask on a school bus. Students and staff will still be required to wear a face mask on a school bus.
Please speak with your students about respecting the choices that people will make to wear a mask or not. As a district, we expect every student and staff member to be treated respectfully. Harassment or bullying of students or staff because of whatever choice they make — to wear a mask or not to wear a mask — will not be tolerated. Our schools will proactively address this issue but we need your assistance to address this matter.
As outlined in 2021-22 District Family Update No. 18, the reasons for these changes are:
- The public health situation has improved substantially in recent weeks and is on a positive trajectory. The district’s influenza-like illness rates have normalized after the surge in cases due to the Omicron variant. These rates are once again well below 5%. This school-based data has returned to being the most accurate metric of the collective health of our schools.
- Vaccinations for children ages 5 and older have been widely available since early November. People have had ample opportunity to become fully vaccinated.
- There are numerous methods for individual protection that were not widely available until recently. These methods include higher-quality masks that can offer better personal protection in a mixed-mask environment and continued access to COVID-19 testing.
The district will maintain its COVID-19 dashboard and update weekly influenza/COVID-19-like illness (ICIL) rates. The district will also continue updating the general notifications on the district’s COVID-19 updates page. The district will consider reactivating COVID-19 safety protocols if the weekly ICLI rates are above 5% at any school building or if there is a significant deterioration in the public health conditions. If any building reactivates its safety protocols, community education activities at that school will do the same.
These changes are celebrated by some and mourned by others. While the pandemic is not over, we are moving to another phase of managing it. As we move forward, our community needs to heal together. The pandemic has and will continue to challenge us in many ways. Please continue to show grace, compassion, and understanding for our friends and neighbors. I understand that many feel we have had too much grace, compassion, and understanding asked of us. More grace, compassion, and understanding are required as we continue navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. I am confident we will heal together and pledge the convening power of the school district to help with that effort.
As always, please contact me with any feedback about the district. I appreciate our community’s shared dedication to preparing every student for lifelong success.
Matt Hillmann, Ed.D.