During the week of November 15, 13 students from the Peter Boe Jr. Elementary School in Mayville, North Dakota, positive for COVID-19. Six of those students were in third grade, accounting for 17% of the third grade class. In all, 41 elementary school students missed school that week because they tested positive for COVID-19, were in close contact with someone with COVID-19, had another illness, and other reasons.
At the school, students are not required to wear masks unless a grade or the entire school exceeds the 10% positivity threshold. Since third grade crossed the threshold with a 17% positivity rate, third grade students are required to wear masks or undergo serial testing.
In addition to requiring third-grade students to wear masks, May-Port CG Public District Superintendent Michael Bradner says the district is relying on other COVID-19 mitigation measures such as cleaning, personal hygiene and community education to help contain the spread of the virus in elementary school. to slow down .
“We haven’t seen any major broadcasts that are directly related to the school and I think our school is definitely following what’s happening in the community,” Bradner said.
He expects most students who tested positive during the peak in cases will be able to return to school Monday after the Thanksgiving break.
“We hope our numbers will come back down. We expect this to go down or level off,” Bradner said. could affect if they come back on Monday as well.”
The Mayville school isn’t the only school to have seen an increase in COVID-19 cases recently. In the past two weeks, schools in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, have seen districtwide active COVID-19 cases go from two to 12 to 28. Students in the district are encouraged but not required to wear masks.
When Thief River Falls students test positive for COVID-19, any student deemed close by the school nurse and administrative team at the school must be quarantined at home. Since November 15, about 150 students in the neighborhood have been quarantined as close contacts.
Donita Stepan, Superintendent of Thief River Falls Public Schools, says positive cases are fairly evenly distributed among elementary, middle and high school — no school produces significantly more COVID-19 cases than the other. She says new positive cases have slowed down since the peak in cases. There were only three new cases of COVID-19 in primary school this week.
Even as student numbers soared, few employees in Thief River Falls have tested positive for COVID-19.
“That’s very different from last year and so we really hang up our hats that we have 75 to 80% of our employees who have been vaccinated,” said Stepan. “We don’t have to worry about moving to a distance learning model at this point because we have staff to cover our building.”
Given the difference vaccination staff has made from last year to this year, Stepan is delighted that children aged five to 11 can now be vaccinated. Last week, the district hosted its first age-group vaccine clinic, and more than 100 students received their first dose of the vaccine.
“If we can get our kids vaccinated, we can end these quarantines and stop these positive cases,” Stepan said.
The Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 was approved by the FDA for emergency use on Oct. 29. The vaccine is given as a series of two doses, with three weeks between doses. According to the North Dakota Department of Health, 7,652 doses were administered as of Nov. 23. As of Nov. 24, data from the state of Minnesota reported that 102,202 children ages 5 to 11 in Minnesota received at least one dose of the vaccine.
At its Nov. 22 meeting, the school board in Crookston, Minnesota, voted to roll back the COVID-19 precautions. The decision was made in part because elementary school students now have the option to get vaccinated, said Jeremy Olson, superintendent of Crookston Public Schools.
After December 22, the district will move to level 2 of its COVID-19 safety plan, which recommends, but not requires, masks for elementary and middle school students and teachers. That level of the plan also doesn’t require close non-household contacts to go into quarantine. At the current level, level 3, primary school students and teachers are required to wear masks and all close contacts must be quarantined.
December 22 is the last day of school before the winter break in the district, and school starts again on January 3. Olson said the board voted on Dec. 22 to roll back restrictions on COVID-19, as parents have plenty of time between the decision was made and Jan. 3 to fully vaccinate their children.
“I think if parents are given this opportunity to vaccinate their children, I believe this responsibility should fall on the parents’ shoulders rather than on the shoulders of the school,” Oslon said. “We mandated masking in K-6 because parents had no right to vaccinate their children. Now we transfer that responsibility to them.”
In Thief River Falls and Crookston, vaccines are seen as the best way to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in schools, with inspectors and principals actively encouraging parents to vaccinate children. In Grafton, North Dakota, school administrators are more neutral about the vaccine’s potential.
Grafton Public Schools will host an optional vaccine clinic for 5 to 11-year-olds through the Walsh County Health District on Monday, Nov. 29. Grafton Public Schools Superintendent Darren Albrecht said the district is hosting the on-site clinic because it was requested by the Walsh County Health District and makes it easier for parents who choose to vaccinate their children.
“The district is not taking steps to encourage parents, but is supporting all decisions they make,” he said.