Spring Lake Park High School students sitting in chairs and doing school work

Spring Lake Parks Schools students headed into fall break after four weeks of a new, unusual school year. This year, four weeks of continuity in learning feels like a milestone to celebrate.

“We are grateful to students, staff and families for the partnership, patience and engagement,” says Jeff Ronneberg, superintendent. “We would not be at this point without a community coming together to support learning.”

Staff, students and families have reported many positives about the return to learning this fall – in both Modified Campus (hybrid) and Extended Flexible Learning (distance) learning models.

“We also know every student’s and family’s experience is different,” says Jeff. “We will recognize, celebrate and build on what is working and continue to personalize the experience to best meet each student’s needs whenever and wherever they are learning.”

Monitoring COVID-19 in Anoka County

Spring Lake Park Schools began the year in the base learning model - Modified Campus Schedule (hybrid). The district also has students in all grade levels learning in a full-time Extended Flexible Learning (distance learning) model which is available by family choice throughout the school year.

In the first month of school, district leaders have been monitoring county case numbers and trends. In the data from Minnesota Department of Health, Anoka County cases per 10,000 over the last weeks have been increasing, from 17.38, to 20.78 to 25.96 as reported October 8. Because this data lags by two weeks, leaders have also been monitoring daily case counts which have been increasing in recent days.

If numbers stabilize in the range of 20-30 cases per 10,000, the district will be able to maintain our Modified Campus (hybrid) base learning model for all grade levels. If numbers exceed 30 cases per 10,000, Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan calls for a transition to full-time distance learning for grades 7-12.

“We are connecting with our regional public health team to consult on the trends,” says Jeff. “While we’d hoped to see the numbers continue to decline so we could consider opening further, that is not the reality at this moment. We are prepared for every scenario, and should a transition be needed, we will make the transition as seamless as possible. Until then, we continue learning in our current models.”

COVID-19 cases

During the first four weeks of school, students, families and staff paid close attention to their health. Symptoms of allergies and illnesses like strep throat and the flu have been evaluated along with known symptoms of COVID-19. School have been sending students and staff home in accordance with the MDH exclusion criteria.

More than 300 students and staff have spent time at home as they experienced symptoms on the screening checklist, awaited test results or remained isolated for the recommended 10 days based on their potential exposure to other cases. While this is inconvenient for those impacted, these have been important steps to keep school buildings open for learning.

Since Sept. 10, individuals have reported four lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases within the school community where the infected person had been in a school building – three students, one staff member. These cases generated both general notifications to people who had been in the same spaces and notifications of close contact for those who had spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of the positive case. Another eight students reported positive cases but did not ever come to school.

“In our analysis and contact tracing, there is no indication that transmission of the virus has happened at school,” says Jeff. “The collective vigilance is making a difference in this school year. Working together, we can turn four weeks of learning into many, many more despite a pandemic’s continued presence in our community.”